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Appeal Court Bars INEC From De-registering Parties

INECThe Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal Friday declared unconstitutional, null and void the power conferred on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to de-register political parties.

The appellate court made the declaration while ruling on an appeal filed before it by the National Conscience Party (NCP) challenging the judgment of a Federal High Court in Lagos which upheld the power of INEC to de-register political parties.

The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, had affirmed the constitutionality of section 78(7)(ii) of Electoral Act 2010 which states that a political party must win presidential, governorship election, or win a seat in the National Assembly or state Houses of Assembly for it to retain its licence.

Justice Abang, had in his judgment, delivered on March 6, 2013, held that the provisions of the law were not in conflict with provisions of the Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Enforcement and Ratification Act as contended by the NCP.

However, in its judgment Friday, the Court of Appeal set aside the lower court verdict, holding that it is not part of the Constitution that a political party must win election for it to operate as a political party.

NCP had argued in its appeal that the trial judge erred in law for refusing to invalidate section 78(7)(ii) of Electoral Act 2010.

The party submitted that, “The court erred in law when it held that the provisions of Section 78(7)(ii) of Electoral Act 2010 is consistent with the provisions of Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and Article 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.”

NCP had also maintained that by virtue of provisions of section 1(1) and (3) of the Constitution, the constitution was supreme and “any other law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is to the extent of its inconsistency null and void.”

The party had further insisted that Section 78(7)(ii) of the Electoral Act contravenes the provisions of Section 40 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the African Charter.

It also argued that the said Section 40 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of association and peaceful assembly is sacrosanct, “inviolable and inalienable save as provided by Constitution.”

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