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91 Political Parties Team Up Against Deregistration Plan

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By Sunday Isuwa, Abuja

The 91 political parties in Nigeria have teamed up to oppose the plan  by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister some parties it described as ‘dormant and commercial.’

LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that out of the 91 political parties in the country, a large percentage was registered six months before the conduct of the 2019 general elections.

But INEC, after collecting N1 million from each of the registered political parties, now says the number contributed to its logistical challenges in the 2019 general elections and needs to be trimmed.

To this end, LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that INEC is set to meet with all political parties in the country on July 1, 2019.

Some chairmen of the political parties, who confirmed this to our correspondent, said they had received a circular in that regard.

A key focus of the meeting, it was gathered, is the review of the 2019 general elections, the possible announcement of plans to seek alteration of the electoral legal framework and the amendment of the electoral act that will give the commission more powers to deregister ‘dormant and commercial’ political parties.

Some of the political party chairmen who spoke to our correspondent said it will be unfair if INEC, after collecting N1 million from the newly registered parties, goes ahead to deregister them.

Others are also of the opinion that since INEC does not fund political parties, it must find a modern-day technique that will accommodate all political platforms contesting in an election.

If the proposed alteration to the electoral legal framework and the amendment of the electoral act succeeds as being canvassed, INEC said it will reduce the number of political parties.

According to the commission, many of the political parties in Nigeria merely exist by name and do not add value to the electoral process, hence the need to deregister them.

Nigeria currently has 91 political parties with many associations still awaiting registration, but with the ongoing national conversation which seeks to alter INEC’s legal framework and amend the electoral act, the number of political parties will be reduced drastically.

This has raised a lot of concern with chairmen of political parties teaming up in objection. They are insisting that INEC cannot limit the political space by giving Nigerians few platforms for choice.

Delivering a keynote address at the ongoing state level review of the 2019 general elections held in Makurdi, Benue State, INEC’s national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the number of political parties need to be trimmed.

“The Electoral Legal Framework for the management and conduct of elections in Nigeria must be aligned and realigned to accord with the lessons and realities of the 2019 general elections.

“The chairman of INEC has flagged off conversation relating to the number and quality of political parties in Nigeria. Presently, there are 91 registered political parties in Nigeria and 73 of the said political parties fielded candidates for the 2019 presidential elections.”

“At the time the commission suspended registration of new political parties before the 2019 general elections, 11 associations had paid the one-million-naira administrative fee for registration. Out of the 11, one (Boot Party) was formally advised that its application failed but later the commission was informed by the legal department that the said party had been registered through the instrumentality of the Court.

“Another three of the 11 were making corrections to their applications. Another three of the 11 were awaiting verification visit from the commission. Four of the 11 were yet to return their application Form PA. Additionally, since the conclusion of the 2019 Elections , three new associations have applied to be registered as political parties, thus joining the 79 associations that failed initial assessment of the suitability of their proposed names and or logos.

“Nigerians must engage in root and branch review of the number of registered parties in Nigeria. The present framework for the registration of political parties is inadequate to guarantee the registration of qualitative, membership driven and ideologically propelled political parties.”

“Some of the political parties are mere platforms and have no concrete and visible presence in most states of the Federation. The presence of too many political parties on our ballot papers has in some instances confused some of our compatriots that are not well endowed in literacy. It has bloated the ballot papers and result sheets and trucking them to the polling units has become a logistics nightmare,” Okoye said.

The commission said it will present alternatives to the Nigerian people including alteration of the constitutional regime that ties registration of political parties to visible, verifiable and concrete  presence and structures in at least half of the states of the federation.

“The commission will also propose a rational and democratic threshold for getting on the ballot and save the Nigerian people the phenomena of “also ran,” Okoye said.

But reactions have continued to trail INEC’s plans, with political parties calling on Nigerians not to accept the proposed amendment of the electoral law that will lead to the deregistration of political parties.

According to some party chairmen, INEC must adopt the use of technology to solve its logistics challenges.

National secretary of Mass Action Joint Alliance (MAJA), Ibrahim Aliyu, said INEC should not even contemplate approaching Nigerians for new laws that will help them deregister political parties.

“The move to get power to deregister political parties is unconstitutional and the commission should not even contemplate it. INEC does not fund political parties. Why try to deregister us when we are not taking anything from you? We will fight this to the end.

“It is wrong to say we don’t contribute to advancement of democracy. We field candidates in almost all the positions. So, what we are saying is that Nigerians should not grant additional powers to INEC to deregister us. Instead, any association that applies should be registered. INEC must not give Nigerians smaller choices by limiting the number of political parties Nigerians should have,” Aliyu said.

The acting national chairman of Youth Party, Suleiman Yusuf, remarked that before any association was registered, a body had to screen them and they scaled through before paying the N1 million fee.

“People work hard to secure that registration. And in every democracy, you have the right to belong to any association and political party. On what basis are they sourcing for more powers to deregister political parties? Even if INEC brings more stringent conditions for registration, I am assuring you that Nigerians will meet that condition,” Yusuf said.

According to the Youth Party chairman, the new political parties are forced into participating in national elections because of what happens at local council levels.

“At the state level where political parties are supposed to develop, the governors hijack the elections for their political parties. If there is transparent election at the local government levels, every political party will get seats. INEC should know that they are a product of democracy. In democracy, there is freedom of associations and choices. We got registered few months to the elections and we fielded candidates that did well. Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) was deregistered and it went to court. The court registered them back. In the 2019 general elections, they won seats into various state house of assembly,” Yusuf added.

He said as newly registered political parties, they contribute money to run their affairs unlike the bigger political parties funded by state resources.

“If INEC thinks the number of political parties is affecting i’s logistics, this is 21st century, the commission should adopt technology. In the US, they have over 400 political parties but most people only know of two or three. We need more political parties in Nigeria, “ the Youth Party chairman said.

Also, the national chairman of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Bishop Amakiri said INEC should not be in a hurry to seek more powers to deregister political parties when they just registered many of them few months to the 2019 general elections after collecting N1 million from each of them.

“Few months to the elections, INEC registered over 30 political parties. They collected N1 million each from these associations. We don’t want deregistration of political parties and we are calling on Nigerians not to support it. Let INEC allow the political parties to remain. We are advising INEC to only seek more stringent conditions for registration of political parties and not deregistration,” Amakiri said.

Speaking on behalf of the 91 political parties in Nigeria, the chairman, Inter-part Advisory Council (IPAC), Chief Peter Ameh said Nigeria’s challenges when it comes to elections is not the number of political parties, but the laws guiding the elections.

“The challenges we are facing on elections are the laws and not political parties. We need incisive laws. In Benin Republic, a country with a small population, they have over 200 political parties. The Gambia, South Africa, Uganda are all smaller countries but they have more political parties than we have. It’s unfortunate to see civil society groups writing letters calling for the deregistration of political parties, “ Ameh said, insisting that INEC does have that agenda except for the ‘ongoing instigation.’

Ameh asserted that if every state conducts local government elections, all political parties will meet all the requirements they need to exist, saying INEC must overlook that part of the law since states are defaulting in that  regard.

“We want our laws strengthened. We want dual process of election results transmission. If the Elections are transparent, political parties will win. My party won election to the House of Reps. How do we sustain that? Some people after winning election in the smaller parties defect. How do we stop that? We need to strengthen our electoral laws,” Ameh added.

The IPAC chairman, who condemned the sacking or suspension of local government chairmen by some state governors, said the action also contributes to the failure of political parties in Nigeria.

“If the president suspends the governors, will they be happy? So, we need a review of the laws that will strengthen the democratic process and not deregistration of political parties, “ the IPAC chairman added.

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