Another setback for polls, court orders INEC to approve new party
The general elections rescheduled to commence on March 28 may have, yesterday, suffered another setback following the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accord full recognition to the Young Democratic Party, having been deemed registered as a political party.
Young Democratic Party, had sued INEC, Mr Peter Fayose, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Engr Rauf Aregbesola, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), as 1st to 6th defendants respectively.
However, the names of the 2nd to 6th defendants were struck out by the court, leaving only INEC.
The plaintiff sought the court to declare that INEC had no reason not to register it as a political party.
Consequently, it posed the following questions before the presiding judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, that, “Whether by virtue of the Electoral Act 2010, particularly Section 78(4) deeming the plaintiff registered as a political party, and also our extant laws, including the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the 1st defendant has any justifiable reason to withhold the certificate of registration of the plaintiff.
“Whether considering the letter of submission of application dated 17th March 2014 and received by the 1st defendant on 1st August 2014 to be registered as a political party and also considering Section 78(4) of the Electoral Act, the plaintiff was a political party.
“Whether considering the letter of acknowledgment and process of application dated 13th of August 2014 from the 1st defendant to the plaintiff and also considering Section 78(4) of the Electoral Act, the plaintiff was a political party.”
Delivering judgment on the suit yesterday, the court held that “INEC has not discharged its constitutional obligation of informing the plaintiff why it has not been registered as a political party.
“The effect of INEC’s action as clearly spelt out in Section 78(4) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) is to deem the plaintiff as a duly registered political party.”
The court held that having received the plaintiff’s application to be registered as a political party on March 17, 2014, INEC, based on the provision of Section 78(4) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), had 30 days to act on the plaintiff’s application.
Instead, Justice Mohammed noted that it took INEC until August 13, 2014, more than 120 days to react to series of correspondences from the plaintiff seeking to know while it has not been registered.
The court said the time lag on the side of INEC and its inability to clarify the Young Democratic Party on its status means “the plaintiff has no defect. For more than 120 days outside the 30 days required by law, INEC did not come out to say why the plaintiff has not met the requirements.”
Consequently, the court declared that the 1st defendant has no reason whatsoever to refuse to issue the plaintiff with its certificate of registration, being deemed registered as a political party by virtue of the provisions of the Electoral Act, particularly Section 78(4), and also considering the letter of submission of application dated the 17th of March 2014.
Earlier, the court had dismissed the preliminary objection of INEC dated January 25, 2015, saying, “From the wording of Section 78(4) of the Electoral Act, the defendant has obligation to register an association as a political party. Consequence of not doing so is to deem the association as deemed registered as a political party.”
The court added that by deeming a political association as a registered party after 30 days, the Electoral Act has given the plaintiff a legal right.
“Plaintiff has legal right; defendant’s preliminary objection dated January 25, 2015, has failed and accordingly dismissed,” the court said.
In a 31-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Osita Ebubealor, the plaintiff claimed that it applied to be registered as a political party, and pursuant to its objectives to be registered as a political party, made a payment of N1million on the 7th of February 2014 into the account of the 1st defendant with United Bank for Africa plc.
The plaintiff said INEC, through a letter dated February 10, 2014, confirmed the said payment and issued the plaintiff with a receipt and as a consequence, wrote a letter to the plaintiff on the requirements for registration as a political party, including the prescribed form for registration.
The letter stated, “That the plaintiff thereon and in pursuant to the prescribed requirement duly applied to the 1st defendant to be registered as a political party. The said application was made to the 1st defendant via a letter dated 17th of March 2014, by which letter the various statutory required documents were confirmed and sent to the 1st defendant. The 1st defendant received and confirmed the application and acknowledged so on the 1st of April 2014.
“That before the expiration of the 30 days, the plaintiff on April 17, 2014 wrote a letter to the 1st defendant, inquiring on the status of its registration and why the 1st defendant had not made any scheduled visit to the plaintiff if it deemed it so necessary.
“That the plaintiff after waiting for 30 days counting from the 1st of April 2014 wrote a letter to the 1st defendant demanding for its certificate of registration in line with the Electoral Act.
“The plaintiff also disclosed that it had gubernatorial candidates for both the Osun and Ekiti states elections that held on 21st June and 9th August 2014, respectively.
“That on August 13th, the 1st defendant wrote a letter to the plaintiff, stating that it had processed the application of the plaintiff. That yet again, another 30 days passed, counting from the 13th of August, and the 1st defendant did not communicate in any way whatsoever to the plaintiff on the success or otherwise of its application as required by law.
“That after the expiration of the 30 days as required by law, precisely n the 15th of September 2014, the plaintiff wrote a letter to the 1st defendant kindly requesting its certificate of registration having been deemed registered by the operation of law.”