The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday fixed May 29 to hear a suit filed by 31 political parties against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Justice Anwuli Chikere, after listening to the parties during the proceeding, said all the processes filed would also be adopted on the adjourned date.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that INEC had, on Feb. 6, deregistered 74 political parties, leaving 18 others.
However, in a motion on notice with suit number: FHC//ABJ/ CS/444/19 between Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) and 32 others Vs. Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and INEC (1st and 2nd respondents respectively), the applicants had approached the court for restraining order.
Justice Chikere, who restrained INEC from deregistering the parties in her ruling, on Feb. 17, said having failed to counter the application by the applicants, the affected political parties had the legal right which must be protected.
“The facts sworn to in the affidavit in support of the application remained unchallenged, undisputed and deemed to be true by the court.
“If any material fact alleged in an affidavit is not denied in a counter-affidavit, an admission of the fact is implied,” she had held.
Justice Chikere had also confirmed that there was “evidence of proof of service on the 2nd defendant and the 2nd defendant refused, neglected, failed to respond to the motion filed by the applicants.”
NAN reports that although 33 political parties filed the matter in court, two of the parries; Labour Party (LP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC), were later dropped from the suit because the parties were not deregistered by INEC.
In the application filed on Oct. 30, 2019, and was served on INEC on Oct. 31, 2019, the applicants prayed the court for “an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 2nd defendant from deregistering the plaintiffs, or any political party for that matter, pending the determination of this suit.
“And for such further order(s) as this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
They sought for the order on the grounds that “the Plaintiffs as registered political parties have been carrying out their constitutional/statutory duties and functions without any funding from government.
“The plaintiffs have been canvassing for votes and nominating candidates for elections into electoral constituencies in Nigeria.
NAN reports that the court had, on Oct. 30, adjourned the ruling on the matter to Jan. 23, but Justice Chikere again adjourned the ruling till Feb. 17 since INEC was not represented in the court.
Earlier, Kehinde Edun, Counsel to the applicants, told the court that the matter was adjourned for the motion on mandatory injunction filed on Feb. 14 which the ruling was delivered on Feb. 17, and on the court order..
However, before Edun could complete the statement, INEC Counsel, Alhassan Umar, cut in.
Umar told the court that on Feb. 17 when the ruling was delivered, “My Lord gave a directive that the defendant be served in court and the plaintiffs did.”
According to him, and after, My Lord said we will go into the substantive matter in the next adjourned date.
Umar reminded that although the case couldn’t come up on Feb. 27 as scheduled, on April 8 which was the next adjourned date, the lockdown order as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) made the sitting impossible.
When the judge asked Edun what the motion was all about, the applicants’ lawyer explained that the court gave an order in the last sitting restraining INEC from deregistering the 31 political parties pending the determination of the matter but that the electoral umpire had refused to comply with the order.
Justice Chikere, who crosschecked for the ruling in the court file, read out the orders given in the last sitting.
“On Feb. 17, the ruling was delivered restraining the 2nd respondent from deregistering the plaintiffs and an order adjourning the substantive case till Feb. 27, 2020,” she read.
However, Umar, who told the court that the order had been overtaken by event, said: “My Lord, you directed that we be served in the court for accelerated hearing and they did.
“We have responded to the originating summon. It was filed on Feb. 24, the written address filed on Feb. 24 as well, and we have served the plaintiffs the counter-affidavit.
“If the plaintiffs’ counsel is challenging the order of this court, he should said so,” Umar said.
Edun, however confirmed that though INEC served the counter-affidavit on them on Feb. 26, the commission’s action to go against the order of the court was unacceptable.
The Judge, therefore searched for the INEC’s counter applications in the court filed.
“I have said that today is for substantive matter.
“The only problem I have is that the processes INEC filed are not in the court file,” she stated.
Justice Chikere, then adjourned the matter until May 29 for adoption of the processes.
In an interview with NAN shortly after the proceeding, Edun said the reason for filing another motion was because INEC carried out a deregistration when a suit was pending.
“And while another leave was pending they went ahead to show disrespect to the courtto show that court doesn’t matter.
“And that was why the court gave an order restraining them from deregistering the parties. But the excuse on that was that it was a completed act,” he said.
The lawyer stated that even though that was the commission’s claim, the court would have given a restorative order.
Also responding on the allegation that INEC failed to adhere to court order, Umar said: “This has been overtaken by event because the court made a specific order having regards to the issue of the case and the fact that the defendant was served on the day that the ruling was delivered which was Feb. 17, that the substantive suit would be heard today.
“So the motion was no longer necessary in view of the accelerated hearing of the substantive suit.”
NAN observes that the AGF was not represented in the court.
The affected parties are: Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP), All Blending Party (ABP), All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP), Democratic People’s Congress (DPC), Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Green Party of Nigeria (GPN).
Also on the list are Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN) and National Interest Party (NIP).
Others are the Nigeria Democratic Congress Party (NDCP), People’s Party of Nigeria (PPN), People for Democratic Change (PDC), Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) and Red-build Nigeria Party (RBNP).
Others are Restoration Party of Nigeria (RP), United Democratic Party (UDP), United Patriot (UP), We The People Nigeria (WTPN), Young Democratic Party (YDP), Save Nigeria Congress (SNC), Change Advocacy Party (CAP), Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and All Grassroots Alliance (AGA).
Alliance of Social Democrats (ASD), Democratic Alternative (DA), New Generation Party of Nigeria (NGP), Mass Action Joint Alliance (MAJA), Nigeria For Democracy (NFD) and Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN), also made the list. (NAN)