2019 Election: Court Orders INEC To Register Socialist Party Of Nigeria
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Tuesday, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to immediately register and recognize the Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN, as a new political party.
The court, in a judgment that was delivered by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, directed INEC to issue a Certificate of Registration to the new party within 30 days.
Justice Kolawole held that by virtue of section 78(4) of the Electoral Act 2010, the SPN, having met all the requirements under the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010, “is deemed registered as a political party in Nigeria”.
The verdict followed a suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/630/2014, which six members of the SPN- Segun Sango, Chinedu Bosah, Mikaliu Mohammed, Emmanuel Adikwu, Agbebire Marcellus and Nuhu Zira- lodged before the court.
The plaintiffs challenged INEC’ refusal to register their party and issue them a Certificate of Registration despite fulfilling all the statutory conditions, including the payment of administration fee of N1m, establishment of the national headquarters in Abuja and constituting a National Executive Committee with members from at least 24 states and Abuja.
INEC was said to have in a letter dated August 12, 2014, which was its response to the application by SPN to be registered as a political party, said it terminated the registration process over failure of the political group to allow for verification of its submitted claims.
However, SPN accused the commission of terminated the registration process having failed to process the application within 30 days as stipulated by Section 78 (3 and 4) of Electoral Act 2010.
In his judgment, Justice Kolawole agreed with the plaintiffs and held that INEC mismanaged the processing of SPN’s application.
He held that by virtue of the provision of section 78 (2),(3), and (4) of the Electoral Act when read and construed communally, INEC was bound to abide by the timeline set in the Act.
According to Justice Kolawole, INEC “is not permitted to exercise its statutory powers according to the predilection and the whims of its chairman and/or principal management officers in the discharge of its duties of political party registration and monitoring”.
He stressed that “by the provision of section 221 of the Constitution 1999 (as amended), political parties remain the only recognised electoral vehicle by which Nigerians can aspire to any of the elective offices created by the Constitution in order to constitute machinery of government.”
However, the court declined to declare as unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect, section 78(3) of the Electoral Act which prescribes payment of N1million by any association that applies for registration.
Justice Kolawole held that the N1m requirement was not in conflict with provisions of Sections 222-229 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The judge equally declined to order INEC to refund the N1m that was paid by the SPN, even as he also refused to compel the electoral body to pay N1m litigation cost to the plaintiffs.
“It is my view that the payment of such fees becomes necessary so that only serious minded and genuine associations will approach the defendant to be registered as a political party. Without such fees, the corridor to make frivolous application by busy bodies as political association will be left wide open and the defendant being statutory and constitutional body will find itself spending, perhaps, dissipating public funds, in trying to verify claims which will not be genuine.
“There is nothing inconsistent with the provisions of section 78(6) of the Electoral Act (supra) and section 22 to 229 of the constitution”, Justice Kolawole held.