Reprieve may have come the way of Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State as the Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday dismissed as lacking in merit, the suit by the Reform and Advancement Party, RAP, filed to challenge the party’s deregistration by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
RAP is presently challenging Uzodinma’s emergence as the governor of Imo state at the Federal High Court in Abuja on grounds that he was not the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state. The matter has been adjourned to September.
But, the bid by the party to regain its legitimacy suffered a heavy legal blow when the court affirmed the power of the INEC to register political parties that failed to meet the requirements contained in section 222 (a) of the 1999 Constitution as amended. The court also dismissed the suit filed b y the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) equally challenging it’s deregistration.
Both parties were part of the 78 parties deregistered by INEC in February this year. RAP in particular has given an indication that it will challenge the judgment at the Court of Appeal. It had earlier prayed the court to compel INEC to immediately restore its registration as a political party in Nigeria and to continue recognizing, relating, and communicating all official correspondences with its National Chairman, Dr. Israel Nonyerem Davidson who was cited as 1st Plaintiff in the matter.
But, the court, in separate judgments that were delivered by Justice Evelyn Maha, held that the Plaintiffs failed to by preponderance of the evidence, establish why they should continue to exist as political parties, having failed to secure any seat in previous elections.
It noted that the two deregistered parties did not in their pleadings; deny the fact that they were unable to meet the required statutory benchmark contained in section 225 of the Constitution.
Justice Maha stressed that INEC has a binding obligation to act in accordance with express provisions of the Constitution, saying it did not act ultra-vires its powers by withdrawing the registration of the Plaintiffs for their non-performance in past elections.
“Section 225 provides the law guiding the existence of political parties in Nigeria.
“There is no evidence that the Defendant unlawfully re-registered the 3rd Plaintiff”, the court held.
It said the use of the word “Shall” in section 225 of the Constitution placed a mandatory responsibility on INEC to de-register political parties that failed to meet the constitutional requirement.
The defunct party, through its lawyer, Mr. Okere Kingdom, maintained that the trial court misunderstood the case it brought before it for adjudication.