The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to relist 22 of the political parties deregistered last year.
In February 2020, the electoral body deregistered 74 parties for failing to win any elective office in the 2019 general election.
The court made the order shortly after setting aside a judgment of the Federal High Court which upheld the power of INEC to deregister political parties.
Delivering judgment Monday, a five-man panel of Justices led by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, held that the deregistration was illegal because due process was not followed.
The appellate court further held that INEC failed to comply with section 225(A) of the 1999 Constitution as amended because it did not provide reasons for the deregistration of the political parties.
Justice Dongban-Mensem, who observed that the constitution provides that citizens be entitled to freedom of association, said that the right conferred on a political party cannot be taken away except by due process.
According to the appellate court, the appellants are challenging the process of their deregistration and not the act.
Justice Dongban-Mensem accordingly ordered that the appellants be relisted as registered political parties in the country.
The parties are Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP), All Blending Party (ABP), All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), Alliance of Social Democrats (ASD), Change Advocacy Party (CAP), Democratic People’s Congress (DPC), Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN) and Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN).
Others are New Generation Party of Nigeria (NGPA), Nigeria For Democracy (NFD), Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), People for Democratic Change (PDC), Young Democratic Party (YDP), Re-Build Nigeria Party (RBNP), Save Nigeria Congress (SNC), Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), United Democratic Party (UDP), United Patriots (UP) and We The People of Nigeria (WTPN).
Respondents in the appeal were the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and INEC.
The parties in 2019 sought the interpretation of the novel provision in Section 225(a) in the amended Constitution.
On June 11, 2020, Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court, Abuja had in a judgment rejected the plaintiffs’ contention dismissed the suit of the 22 appellants challenging the power of INEC to deregister them as political parties in the country.
Furthermore, the Federal High Court declared that INEC has powers to deregister them.
The lower court severally while holding that INEC validly exercised its powers in Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), stated that the parties provided no evidence that it met the criteria for it not to be deregistered.
Displeased by the decision of Justice Chikere, the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP), Alliance of Social Democrats (ASD), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), United Patriots (UP) and 17 others had on June 30, in their appeal prayed the appellate court to set aside the judgment of the lower court and order their relisting as political parties.
They argued that INEC cannot exercise its power as provided by section 225 A until it has conducted election into all elective offices listed in the said section.