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DEREGISTRATION: Another party, KOWA drags INEC to court, demands relisting, N500m damages

INEC says court lacks jurisdiction to hear Okorocha’s suit, asks for dismissal

KOWA party, one of the 74 deregistered political parties in Nigeria has dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to court.

The party is praying for court to order INEC to relist it as a political party in Nigeria as well as mandate the electoral body to pay it N500 million as damages.

The Mahmood Yakubu led INEC had on February 6, 2020 announced the deregistration of 74 political parties over failure to supposedly meet the requirements of the law to remain as a political party in the country.

Some of the deregistered parties are challenging the development in court.

A recent ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja, had held that INEC deregistration of the 74 political parties was valid and legal.

The court, presided over by Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo, ruling in a suit filed by the National Unity Party (NUP), said the electoral body had the power to deregister political parties which failed to comply with the provisions of the law, particularly Section 225 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

Notwithstanding the recent judgement, KOWA in a suit number FHC/AB/CS/51/2020, filed at the Federal High Court, Abeokuta on Monday June 1, prayed inter alia, for the court to declare that it was deregistered in error by INEC and to order the commission to relist it.

The party claimed that it had suffered loss of public confidence through the action of the commission which the party said violated relevant sections of the constitution, especially Section 225A which excludes any political party that wins at least one ward in a local government election from being deregistered.

The party further claimed that its candidate won the councillorship election in Amosu ward of Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State in the year 2018 and that the tenure of the said councillor subsists till the year 2021.

The party also argued in the witness statement filed in court that having a sitting councillor should have protected the party from INEC’s hammer which it said was “recklessly and unconstitutionally done” and that “INEC did it in error”.

Read also: KOWA Party says INEC acted like a political assassin by deregistering it

Speaking on the party’s suit on Wednesday, the party’s acting national chairman, Comrade Mark Adebayo told Ripples Nigeria:

“Our suit is not about challenging INEC’s powers to deregister parties or not, it is that it misused and misapplied that power in the case of KOWA Party. The constitution is very clear about what you must have in order to remain afloat as a political party, the least of which is to have won a councillorship election, which we did and we have a councillor whose tenure by law will not expire till August 2021″.

The national chairman said that in order to forestall the party’s deregistration, it wrote to INEC since July 2019 to intimate the commission of its victory at the Imo State local government election held in August of 2018 and the letter was acknowledged by INEC.

“The party was therefore surprised to have been included among the 74 deregistered parties,” Comrade Mark said, insisting that INEC’s claims in the media that it couldn’t recognise an election that it did not conduct is like standing the law on its head.

He stated that “State Independent Electoral Commissions which are responsible for conducting local government elections are a creation of the same law that created INEC.

“That law recognises that SIECs conduct local government elections and Section 225A says the minimum requirement to continue to function as a political party in Nigeria is to win at least one ward in a councillorship election.

“INEC cannot self-amend that section of the constitution by claiming that it can only recognise the elections it conducts. That’s institutional anarchy and very dangerous and inimical to our country’s democracy.

“We want justice and the only way to get it is through the courts”, Comrade Mark said.

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the commencement of the case but the party acting chairman said he was optimistic that justice would be served in the suit.

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