Ekweremadu speaks on INEC ‘lacking constitutional powers’ to address political parties proliferation

Nigeria’s former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has explained that constitution amendments carried out by the Eighth National Assembly had substantially addressed the problem of proliferation of political parties in Nigeria.

Ekweremadu expressed surprise over a recent statement credited to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Commissioner in charge of Nasarawa, Kogi, and Kwara States, Muhammed Haruna, that the electoral body lacked the powers to de-register political parties without further constitution amendments.

The lawmaker stated that all INEC needed to do was to look at the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 9) Act published in Official Gazette No. 77 Vol. 105 to be well guided.

Writing on his Facebook handle, he said: “INEC has a germane point because the size of our political parties constitute logistical challenge to the election management body. More electorate now find it difficult to identify the logos of their preferred political parties. The ballots and result sheets are getting too long and unwieldy. It also has cost and time implications on elections.

“However, I believe INEC’s concern has already been substantially addressed by the 1999 Constitution as amended by the Eighth National Assembly and assented by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“We inserted a new Section 225A, which provides that the INEC shall have power to de-register political parties for breach of any of the requirements for registration and failure to win at least 25 percent of votes cast in one state of the federation in a presidential election or 25 per cent of votes cast in at least one local government in a governorship election.

“It further empowers INEC to de-register any party that fails to win at least one ward in the Chairmanship election or one seat in the National Assembly or State House of Assembly election or one seat in the Councillorship election.

“What it means is that a political party may continue to exist. But once it appears on the ballot, it becomes compulsory for it to meet certain benchmarks to continue to exist.

“So, it is incumbent on INEC to filter out and de-register those political parties that appeared on the presidential election ballot but did not garner at least 25 per cent of votes in at least one state of the federation. It should also look at parties that contested election in the states and de-register those political parties that did not poll up to 25 per cent of votes in at least one local government area in those states they contested election.

“The idea is to encourage political parties to see election as a serious democratic exercise and to confine themselves to the level of election they have reasonable structures, support base, and resources to win or show substantial strength; otherwise our elections will become unmanageable at a point.”

Ekweremadu disclosed that efforts to checkmate the mushrooming of political parties in Nigeria started in the Sixth National Assembly in 2010 with the stoppage of subventions by INEC to political parties.