Deregistration: 22 political parties lose battle at Supreme Court

cfa supreme court
cfa supreme court

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister 22 political parties.

In a unanimous judgment, the apex court accordingly upturned an earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which voided the de-registration on the grounds that INEC failed to accord the parties fair hearing and that the electoral body acted during the pendency of a suit by the parties.

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The 22 parties are among the 74 de-registered in 2020 by INEC following their dismal performances in previous elections.

Dissatisfied by the decision, the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) and 21 other parties sued at the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge their de-registration by INEC.

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The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, in a judgment on June 11, 2020, dismissed the suit on the grounds that INEC was empowered to de-register parties that failed to win elections.

The court held that Section 225(a), (b) and (c) of the Constitution could be construed disjointedly to imply that INEC possesses the power to de-register parties. The Court of Appeal, Abuja, in its judgment delivered in August 2020, held that although INEC possesses the powers to de-register parties, it was wrong in the case of the 22 including the ACD, that was already in court to challenge the planned de-registration before INEC announced it.

Not satisfied, INEC then appealed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which judgment the apex court upturned on Friday in its judgment in the appeal marked: SC/485/2020 filed by INEC.

Justice Ejembi Eko, in the lead judgment, held that the Court of Appeal was wrong to have, on its own, raised the issue of lack of fair hearing, without hearing from parties in the case, and reached a conclusion that the 22 parties were not accorded fair hearing.