Senate empowers INEC to deregister parties

The Senate on Wednesday voted in support of an amendment to the Electoral Act 2010, which empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission to deregister any political party that failed to win at least a seat in any State House of Assembly in the country.

The upper chamber took the decision while voting on clauses in the amended Act as contained in Section 68 of the Constitution which dwells on INEC’s management of political parties and elections.

Efforts by the electoral body to get legal or constitutional powers to axe non-performing parties in the past were frustrated through litigations.

All the 89 senators who participated in the voting exercise were in support of Clause 6 of the amended Act empowering INEC to de-register political parties which fail to win presidential, governorship, chairmanship of a local government area council, or a seat in the National or States Assembly elections.

The senate also approved clause six and seven which seek the alteration of Section 68 and 109 to mandate the Clerk of the National Assembly and the Clerks of States Houses of Assembly to notify the Independent National Electoral Commission of any vacancy.

Specifically, the clerks are expected to write within seven days of the existence of a vacancy arising from death, resignation or defection of a member of the National Assembly or a member of the State House of Assembly respectively.

The senators also voted in support of clauses four and five, which also seek to alter section 134 and 179 that relates to the extension of the time for conducting presidential and governorship re-run elections.

The clauses prescribe the extension from seven days to 21 days after results have been announced.

The senate equally voted in support of clause seven, which deals with the conferment of exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court for the trial of electoral offences.

With the approval, federal high courts would be solely responsible for the trial of offences arising from, pertaining to or connected to the violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act and any other election-related act of the National Assembly.

They also approved clause eight of the amendment, which also seeks to alter the Third Schedule of the Constitution to include former Senate Presidents and Speakers of the House of Representatives as members of the Council of States.

The senate deferred voting on the controversial amendments to Section 9 (3a) which confers on the President, the power to initiate a new constitution.

The upper chamber will also, among others, vote on clause 3 (m), which will mandate the INEC to within six months of the receipt of the draft constitution cause a referendum to be conducted to approve the draft constitution.

Senate spokesman, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who spoke on the development after plenary, explained that the clauses considered related to “the management of political parties and then the management of elections.”

He said, “One of the clause passed now said in an effect that if a party is unable to win any election from the state House of Assembly to the House of Representatives to the Senate to the governorship and also to the Presidency should be deregistered by INEC.

“What that means is that INEC now has the powers to de-register parties. If you recall, the INEC had tried to do that and people went to court and said it was against the constitution and that there was no provision in the constitution for de-registration.

“We also passed the clause that has to do with the management of elections with respect to re-run. The position as at today in the constitution is that if nobody emerges a clear winner in an election then the INEC will now have to conduct an election within seven days.

“But since it takes three to five days before you can get a result, if no results now comes then that means they will be left with two to three days to have to conduct a re-run and they felt that they needed to give them 21 days, which is what was passed today.”

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