BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
LAGOS — EXCEPT the National Assembly amends, for the third time, the 2010 Electoral Act, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, may de-register about 40 political parties including Prof. Wole Soyinka’s newly registered Democratic Front for Peoples Federation, DFPF, over poor electoral performance.
Section 78 (7) of the Electoral Act empowers the electoral umpire to de-list political parties that fail to win at least a seat in the state Houses of Assembly or National Assembly.
Currently, about 20 parties are on the cliff-hanger for failing to beat INEC’s January 31 deadline for submitting their candidates’ list for the April general polls. And more are expected to go under after the polls.
At a meeting with leaders of the parties last August, INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, said the commission would de-register political parties that do not win at least one national or state legislative seat in accordance with Section 78 (7) of the Electoral Act. “I should also note that under the section, INEC may also cancel a party’s certificate of registration where there is false or misleading information to its registration.”
Such action is expected to meet stiff resistance from the parties. Chairman of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who has won a ticket to vie for the governorship of Kaduna State under the banner of the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, countered that the parties would fight the action legally.
“Political parties won the right for the formation and registration of our various parties through the court. If this fundamental human right is undermined, we would be compelled to go to court,” he said.
The window for registration of most of the parties were opened following a tough legal battle led by late Chief Gani Fawehinmi in 2002.
Speaking on the issue on phone yesterday, Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, said: “What the law states about the parties would be implemented. But I urge people to wait for the official list of candidates from INEC to be made public before reacting. There are so many lists flying about.”
Asked when the lists would be published, INEC Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Emmanuel Umenger said the commission would keep to its election timetable. “What does the Election Timetable say? It says the list would be published seven days after the submission of candidates’ list by the political parties. Keep your fingers crossed until the seven days come,” he said.
There have been mixed views concerning the large number of political parties in the country with some critics saying that 63 parties were unwieldy.
Of the 63 grant-collecting parties about 10 have at least one electoral slot at all levels from the local council to the presidency.
They include the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Labour Party (LP), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), People for Democratic Change (PDC) and Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN).
Some observers said some of the parties were formed by grant-seeking politicians, whose main agenda is to collect grant from the INEC and retreat. A host of them make feeble attempts at electoral campaigns and so hardly win any position at the polls.
An unimpressed Jega told party leaders last year that the commission would no longer release grants to the parties. At a meeting with leaders of the parties mid_December, 2010, Jega said the commission would no longer fund political parties. “I don’t have money to give to parties.
We do not have it. Do not let us be discussing the issue of money anytime we are meeting. Even as an institution, we look around to get money to meet our obligations. You all know how we went out of our way to get money appropriated to fund our activities. As a Professor of Political Science, I know the importance of political parties. So, do not talk about money here please. Most of our activities are being funded by NGOs and other groups,” he said.
Parties that did not meet the deadline for submission of candidates’ list include Action Alliance (AA), Advanced congress of Democrats (ACD), African Democratic Congress (ADC)
Democratic Front for Peoples Federation (DFPF), Freedom Party of Nigeria (FPN), Justice Party (JP), Liberal Democratic Party of Nigeria (LDPN), Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN).
There are also National Action Council (NAC), Nigeria Advanced Party (NAP), New Democrats (ND), National Democratic Liberty Party (NDLP), National Democratic Party (NDP), Nigeria Elements Progressive party (NEPP), National Majority Democratic Party (NMDP), Nigeria Peoples Congress (NPC), National Unity Party (NUP) and Progressive Action Congress (PAC).