The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal on Friday upturned the judgement of a Federal High Court in Lagos which, in 2013, upheld the power of the Independent National Electoral Commission to de-register the National Conscience Party.
The NCP was founded by the late legal icon, Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
The lower court judge, Justice Okon Abang, had in his judgement, in 2013, affirmed the constitutionality of section 78(7) (ii) of Electoral Act 2010 which makes it mandatory for political parties to win an election to be accorded recognition by INEC.
The judge held that Section 78(7)(ii) of the Electoral Act was not in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right Enforcement and Ratification Act as contended by the plaintiffs.
“There is nothing unconstitutional about Section 78(7) (ii) Electoral Act. Put differently, Section 78(7)(ii) of the Electoral Act is constitutional,” Abang held.
The judge upheld the argument by INEC that winning an election was an obligation needed to be fulfilled before a political party could be recognised by INEC.
Abang had added that the right to form and join a political party as stated in Section 40 of the Constitution was not an absolute right.
He also held that de-registration of political parties is part of INEC’s regulatory roles conferred on the commission by a clause in section 40 of the constitution.
In dismissing the NCP’s case, the judge also ordered the plaintiffs to pay N15, 000 as cost to each of INEC and the National Assembly, who were both defendants in the case.
But not satisfied with Abang’s decision, NCP, through its lawyer, Mr. Marcus Eyarhono, filed a notice of appeal barely 24 hours after the judgement was delivered.
Eyarhono, in his one-ground notice of appeal, contended that Abang erred in law for refusing to invalidate section 78(7)(ii) of Electoral Act 2010.
In a judgement delivered on Friday, after two years, the appellate court set aside Abang’s decision and allowed the appellant’s appeal.
The higher court declared null and void section 78(7)(ii) of Electoral Act 2010, which empowers INEC to de-register political parties, saying it was not part of the constitution that a political party must win an election to operate as a political party.
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