The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Thursday, in Abuja, removed 74 political parties from the roll of 91 that took part in the general elections of 2019. With this development, the country now has 18 political parties.
The 18 parties that have survived INEC’s pruning include Accord Party (AP), Action Alliance (AA), African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), African Democratic Party (ADP) and All Progressives Congress (APC). Also not de-registered are All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), National Rescue Movement (NRM) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Others are Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, however, said one of the political parties, Action Peoples Party (APP), has filed a suit in court and obtained an order restraining the commission from deregistering it, and so it remains registered pending the determination of the case by the court. He also said the 18th party, Boot Party (BP), a new political party, via a court order after the 2019 general elections, would also continue to exist.
Explaining, the commission’s action, he said, “The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) vests in INEC the power to register and regulate the activities of political parties. You will also recall that in 2018, the constitution was amended. In addition to the extant provision for the registration of political parties, the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution (Section 225A) empowers the commission to deregister political parties.” According to him, prior to the Fourth Alteration, the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) had provided for the de-registration of political parties and based on that provision, the commission, between 2011 and 2013, deregistered 39 parties.
Reacting to INEC’s latest action, the chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Kabiru Gaya (APC-Kano), said the target of his committee was to further trim the number of political parties in the country to a reasonable figure of either five or eight. “Our plan is to make future elections cheaper than that of 2019. This is one of the ways to achieve that.” However, the deregistered parties disagree, saying INEC’s decision is hasty and unconstitutional.
Unconstitutional? Certainly not. The Constitution makes it crystal clear that INEC can remove a political party from its roll on the following grounds: “breach of any of the requirements for registration as a political party, failure to win at least 25% of the votes cast in any one state of the Federation in a presidential election or 25% of the votes cast in one local government area of a state in a governorship election and failure to win at least one ward in a chairmanship election, one seat in the National or State Assembly election or one seat in a councillorship election”.
Yakubu added: “In order to implement the provision of the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution, the Commission carried out an assessment of political parties to determine compliance with the requirements for their registration. Similarly, following the conclusion of the 2019 general elections, including court-ordered re-run elections arising from litigations, the Commission was able to determine the performance of political parties in the elections. In addition, they were also assessed on the basis of their performance in the Area Council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which coincided with the 2019 general elections. It should be noted that the FCT is the only part of the country where INEC is empowered by the Constitution to conduct Local Government elections.”
This detailed explanation invalidates the allegation of unconstitutionality against INEC. As to the hastiness of its action, there could have been no better time to do it than immediately after the 2019 polls. New elections are not due until 2023. Sanitizing the crowded political space is the right thing to do right away. One more thing, the unwieldy role of political parties was partly to blame for the things that went wrong in the 2019 elections. If truth be told, the nation could do with far fewer parties that have clearly distinguishable philosophies and programmes than the number we have today. What separates them is only the name. Which is not enough.