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INEC proposes constitutional amendment to limit number of “commercial” Parties

.Says, ‘Boot Party’ registered, kicks against guerrilla primaries

By Omeiza Ajayi

ABUJA – The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has lamented what it described as the growing number of ‘commercial’ platforms masquerading as political parties, saying it would be proposing alterations to constitutional provisions regarding registration and de-registration of political parties in the country as well as timelines for filing some preelection cases.

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman Mahmood Yakubu

This was as the electoral umpire announced the registration of Nigeria’s 93rd political party, Boot Party, through the instrumentality of the court having initially declined to register the political association.

The Commission described most of the political platforms as “commercial platforms for hire” in apparent reference to the manner in which tens of political parties usually pledged their allegiances to either of Nigeria’s two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress APC and the Peoples Democratic Party PDP.

INEC National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Barr. Festus Okoye disclosed these at the weekend in Makurdi, Benue state capital during the state-level review of the 2029 General elections.

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He said; “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 out 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”.

“The Commission 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”.

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“The Commission will also propose further alteration of the conditions for the deregistration of Political Parties as the 4th Alteration to the Constitution is inadequate to weed out dormant and commercial platforms with little or no visible structures and presence in any of the States of the Federation. The Nigerian people need Political Parties that can bid for political power and not mere commercial platforms for hire”, he added.

“The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission 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. As at the time the commission suspended registration of new Political Parties before the 2019 general elections, 11 associations have 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 has been registered through the instrumentality of the Court. Another 3 of the 11 were making corrections to their applications. Another 3 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 , 3 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”, Okoye explained.

Flawed, Opaque, Guerrilla Primaries

The commission also faulted political parties for conducting opaque and flawed primaries which are at the root of the myriads of preelection matters in various courts.

“The Commission believes that the conduct of opaque and flawed party primaries is at the root of the plethora of pre-election matters pending in the various Courts. The Commission has issued Certificates of Return in some cases based on Court Orders, withdrawn Certificates of Return based on Court Orders , restored withdrawn Certificates of Return based on Court Orders and withdrew the said Certificates again based on Court Orders.

“The Commission believes that this is not healthy for the electoral process. The Commission will propose constitutional alteration that aligns the resolution of pre-election issues and the activation of the issuance of Certificates of Return to the 21-day rule in the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended). In other words, lodging an appeal within 21days of obtaining an unfavorable judgment at the Court of first instance automatically stays the execution of the judgement and the issuance of a Certificate of Return pending the determination by the Court of Appeal and possibly the Supreme Court of the appeal. The 60-day timeline for the determination of appeals arising from pre-election matters is reasonable and rational and will prevent the present challenge of issuing and withdrawing and re-issuing Certificates of Return to candidates.

“The Commission will also propose constitutional and legal alterations to the legal framework that makes for the disposal or determination of all pre-election matters before the conduct of elections. The 180 days allowed the Courts of first instance to determine pre-election matters dovetails into the conduct of elections. A 60-day time frame for the Court of first instance is adequate to accommodate some of the issues arising from party primaries and the management of political parties.

“The Commission will engage the leadership of the judiciary relating to the territorial jurisdiction of the Federal High Court relating to the handling of pre-election matters. A situation where primaries are conducted in one state and all the suits relating to same are trucked to another state for determination is not healthy for our electoral process. The Commission will also engage the leadership of the Commission relating to multiplicity of court orders on the same issues and by the same parties and from courts of coordinate jurisdiction.

New framework

“The Commission will design, and test run a new framework for the monitoring of the primaries of political parties. The Commission will henceforth tie the acceptance of the list of candidates of political parties emanating from party primaries to the authentication of the results of the outcome of the said primaries. In other words, the Commission will not accept the list of nominated candidates that are at variance with the clear intendment of section 87 of the Electoral Act.

“The Commission therefore supports the proposition that any political party intending to conduct party primaries shall publish in two national newspapers the date, the venue and the time for the conduct of the said primaries. “Guerrilla approach” to the conduct of party primaries has no bearing and no foundation in section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010(as amended),” he added.

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