The Supreme Court has upheld the de-registration of 22 political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In February, INEC de-registered 74 parties for “failing to meet the criteria provided for by section 225(a) of the 1999 constitution (as amended)”.
Some of the parties jointly filed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/444/2019, asking the court to determine whether INEC has the constitutional power to deregister them.
However, on June 11, Anwuli Chikere, judge of a federal high court in Abuja, agreed with INEC and dismissed the suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs failed to prove their case.
But on August 10, the high court judgment was overturned by the Abuja court of appeal which noted that INEC took the action while a case the political parties filed against it, was still pending in court.
The appellate court held that INEC acted arbitrarily and thereby denied the parties fair hearing.
The court ordered that the appellants should be listed as political parties in the country.
Dissatisfied with the decision, INEC appealed to the Supreme Court.
Delivering judgment in INEC’s appeal marked SC/485/2020, the apex court, in its lead judgment read by Ejembi Eko, reinstated the verdict of the trial court.
Eko said it was the appellate court that had on its own, raised the issue of fair hearing in favour of the political parties and arrived at a conclusion without also hearing from other parties in the matter.
He said the appellate court erred in law by raising the issue of fair hearing in favour of the political parties and declined to give opportunity to other respondents to address it on the matter in order to arrive at a just conclusion.
“It is not the basic function of any court to raise a fundamental issue suo motu and come to the conclusion without being addressed by parties in the matter. Such action runs foul of the pillar of the fair hearing itself,” Eko said
“This appeal by INEC is meritorious and it is hereby allowed.
“The decision of the court below is set aside.”
The affected parties are Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP), All Blending Party (ABP), All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), Alliance of Social Democrats (ASD), Change Advocacy Party (CAP), Democratic People’s Congress (DPC), Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN) and Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN).
Others are New Generation Party of Nigeria (NGPA), Nigeria For Democracy (NFD), Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), People for Democratic Change (PDC), Young Democratic Party (YDP), Re-Build Nigeria Party (RBNP), Save Nigeria Congress (SNC), Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), United Democratic Party (UDP), United Patriots (UP) and We The People of Nigeria (WTPN).