Monday, October 20, 2014 6:55 pm
An Abuja Federal High Court on Monday declared the de-registering of Hope Democratic Party (HDP) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) illegal, null and void and ordered it re-registered, opening a floodgate for other banned parties to return to the register.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola gave the order while delivering judgment in a suit filed by HDP challenging INEC’s decision to deregister the party in December 2013, among others.
The party had joined the National Assembly as a co-defendant in the suit, while the National Coalition for Democratic Change, a political association, was co-plaintiff.
Ademola said “INEC failed to give fair hearing in deregistering the party without giving it sufficient time to refute allegations of breaches of the Electoral Act.
“The court hereby orders that INEC’s letter purporting or suggesting deregistering HDP be set aside as the action is declared illegal, null and void.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC and its agents from stopping HDP from performing the functions of a duly registered political party and participate in elections is hereby given.”
He held that INEC only had the powers to de-register a political party which breached the provisions of Section 78 of the constitution.
He, however, described INEC’s action as “tantamount to putting the cart before the horse, which is a grave error of omission”.
Ademola therefore gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC and its agents from stopping HDP from performing its functions as a duly registered political party.
The judge also awarded N50,000 costs against INEC in favour of HDP and struck out the National Coalition for Democratic Change from the suit for lacking locus standi to sue and be sued.
The plaintiff’s counsel, Mr A. A Oworu, had in the originating summons, argued that INEC lacked the power to deregister the party and urged the court to declare its action illegal, null and void.
He also prayed for an order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC from failing to recognise or reregister the party and stop it from participating in elections as a duly registered political party.
The defendants’ counsel, Messrs Ismail Erinoso and I.K. Bawa, had however, argued that HDP lacked the locus standi to institute the suit which they described as an abuse of court process.