Fresh trouble for Buhari, Tinubu’s party

July 27, 2013 |

There are indications that the Independent National Electoral Commission may suspend the registration of the new mega opposition party, All Progressives Congress.

Sources learnt on Friday that the decision to halt the registration was reached at a meeting involving the National Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, and other top officials of the commission on Tuesday.

It was gathered that besides putting the APC’s registration in abeyance, INEC might write the merging parties on Tuesday, to choose another name.

Opposition parties, including the Congress for Progressive Change, Action Congress of Nigeria and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, on June 5, 2013, had written the commission on their plan to merge under a new name, APC.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that the commission was hinging its decision to suspend the APC’s registration on the separate suits filed by the African Peoples Party and the All Progressive Congress of Nigeria at a Federal  High Court, Abuja.

A top official of the commission, who spoke in confidence with Saturday PUNCH, said, “We have put their (merging parties) registration on hold. A letter will be written to them on Tuesday asking them to choose another name.

“You are aware that some parties have been fighting over the acronym (APC) and in actual fact, two of them have gone to court to compel INEC not to register opposition parties’ APC.

“Although the court has not issued any order, we do not want any problem. That is why we agreed on Tuesday that we should ask the opposition parties to choose a new name.”

The African People’s Congress and the APCN, last month, had filed separate suits at a Federal High Court, Abuja asking INEC  not to register opposition’s APC because of the contention over the acronym.

It was gathered that at Tuesday’s meeting, legal officers of the commission advised that the commission should go ahead to register the mega opposition party as APC since there was no court order that asked INEC not to do so.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that the commission would take the parties’ letter dated July 1, 2013 as the date it was informed of the merger plan, not the initial letter written on June 5, 2013.

The merging parties had, in a letter dated June 5, 2013, written the INEC, informing it of their plan to merge under a new name.

In response to the letter, the Secretary to the commission, Abdullahi Kaugama, wrote the parties, asking them to submit 35 copies of the new party’s proposed constitution, 35 copies of its manifesto and an affidavit in support of the claims in Form PA 1.

The parties, in response to INEC’s demand, had written the commission and submitted the documents on July 1.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that there was a disagreement among the officials at the Tuesday meeting on whether to take June 5 or July 1 as the date the parties informed the commission of their merger plan.

Saturday PUNCH, however, learnt that the commission had settled for July 1.

Based on Section 84 (4 ) of the 2010 Electoral Act as amended, the opposition parties’ APC would be deemed to have been registered, if June 5 was taken by the commission as the date it received the application.

Section 84 (4) of the Electoral Act states, “On receipt of the request for merger of political parties, the commission shall consider the request; and if the parties have fulfilled the requirements of the constitution and this Act, approve the proposed merger and communicate its decision to the parties concerned before the expiration of thirty (30) days from the date of the receipt of the formal request.

“Provided that if the commission fails to communicate its decision within 30 days, the merger shall be deemed to be effective.”

A team of INEC officials, led by Director of Political Party Monitoring, Bala Shittu, had on July 9, inspected APC’s headquarters.

After the inspection, the party’s interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, said that he was optimistic that the APC would be registered.

When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, said, “I am not aware of such a decision or the meeting you are talking about.”

He said since there was no court order asking the commission not to register the party, it could not on its own decide not to do so.

On the effective date of APC’s application, Idowu asked, “Is it proper that we should take the date of application from the day APC wrote INEC for recognition in the merger arrangement or on the day they furnished the commission with the necessary documents?

“I am sure the proper date is the one they submitted the required documents and with such date in mind, the 30 days stipulated by the Electoral Act has not expired. And even if it does, the law is also very clear that whether we write them or not, the law takes care of any ambiguity. I don’t see any reason for confusion in the matter so far until the expiration of 30 days provided for by the law.”

But in a swift reaction, the CPC said suspending the APC registration would be a dangerous thing for INEC to do.

When contacted, the spokesman of the CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, warned INEC against suspending registration of the APC.

Fashakin, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, said that such a decision would put INEC in bad light.

He stated, “It is too late in the day for INEC to attempt to do a thing like that. It will definitely put INEC in bad light. It is too expensive for this leadership of INEC to try to do.”

“It  is a dangerous trend because it will make us to believe that this leadership of INEC is not capable of conducting free and fair elections come 2015.”

Fashakin said that  the people behind rival APC were products of the ruling People’s Democratic Party.

He asked, “Does that mean that anything that will affect the PDP’s interest, INEC is not ready to do justice to it. We are going into elections. Does that mean INEC will short-change Nigerians again like it did in 2011?”

Category: Politics

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