OrderPaperToday– A legal practitioner, Barrister Daniel Bwala, has declared support for the deregistering of 74 political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), saying the commission worked within the ambit of the law.

Recall that on Thursday, the electoral commission, after carrying out a review of the performance of political parties during the 2019 general elections, announced the deregistration of 74 parties.

INEC chairman, Yabuku Mahmud, explained while making the announcement that the move was made in line with the constitution and the Electoral Act, 2010.

He also added that the affected parties failed to meet the criteria required during the elections.

However, some groups have queried the action taken by INEC, saying that it should have waited until elections are held in all 774 local government areas and 8,809 electoral wards in Nigeria as contained in the 4th alteration to the constitution, before assuming that a party has not won any elective position and going ahead with its decision.

A group, the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC), also informed of a pending litigation at Federal High Court, Abuja, filed by 33 political parties, seeking restraining order from deregistering concerned political parties pending the determination of the suit.

“The Federal High Court, upon hearing the motion for an interlocutory Injunction on the Jan. 23, 2020, adjourned for ruling on Feb. 17, 2020 ” IPAC added.

Reacting to this in a telephone conversation with OrderPaperNG over the weekend, Bwala noted that when a matter is in court, people are advised to refrain from taking further action until the court rules on it.

However, he continued, INEC is empowered by law to deregister political parties if conditions as outlined by it are not met by the political parties.

The lawyer said, “If INEC, in pursuant to the powers it has in the constitution, comes up with either provisions in the Electoral Act or as a directive, if the political party in the first place obeys the order and forms a party but did not sustain the condition of remaining as a political party, the popular one is you must show you have won seats in either the state legislature/executive or the national legislature/ executive.

“If a political party does not have any, because don’t forget INEC spent so much money to incorporate all political parties in the electoral process. Why INEC came up with the directive that it can deregister political parties is because if they do not, more parties will be formed and a time will come that INEC would not have the capacity to conduct elections in Nigeria.

“For political parties to be serious, they have to meet with that requirement or they will be forced to do a merger and get seats because those seats you get through electoral process is what gives you the legitimacy power. So INEC has not violated the constitution by deregistering political parties if they failed to comply with either guidelines of INEC and the provisions of the Electoral Act.”

Speaking further, he stated that if on the other hand, the electoral commission ignored a subsisting court order  restraining it from deregistering the parties, then it would mean the agency is wrong.

The case is to be heard on February 17.

Barrister Bwala continued,  “The issue now is who took the first step. If INEC had taken the first step before this people went to court, it means the fact that they are in court cannot stop anything but if they had already gone to court when INEC was threatening to deregister, the second question is whether the court gave an injunction stopping INEC from further proceeding with what they want to do, pending the determination of the matter.

“If there is an existing court order restraining INEC, then what INEC did is unconstitutional, illegal and void to the extent that INEC violated the extent of violating the court order. The party that is in court, that believes INEC removed them or secured the order, can then approach the court that INEC failed to obey the order of the court. In which case, the court will order that the party should serve INEC a form on disobedience of court order. So INEC would have to appear in court and tell it why it took an action disobeying the court order.

“On the other hand, if the court ruled against INEC, it had appealed against that order and that order set aside, then it means that INEC can proceed to do what they wanted to do. It is facts of the case that will tell who is in violation of the court order”, the legal practitioner added.

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