INEC Cracks Down on Weak Political Parties: No More ‘Briefcase’ Registrations
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has voiced its strong disapproval of the registration of what it terms “briefcase” political parties in Nigeria. During a validation session organized by The Kukah Centre and funded by the European Union, INEC’s Acting Director of the Department of Election and Party Monitoring, Hajiya Hauwa Habib, made a compelling case for the introduction of stricter party registration criteria.
Habib emphasized that for a political party to be granted registration, it must boast a membership base of at least 24 individuals, each representing 24 different states and the Federal Capital Territory. She expressed serious concerns about the proliferation of parties with minimal membership, where the chairman and secretary often wield disproportionate influence due to their roles in the party’s initial registration.
In such instances, the secretary and chairman can become entangled in power struggles as elections draw near, leading to factionalization, legal disputes, and complications related to elections. Habib cited an example from 2018 in which a political party with just four members, all hailing from the South-West region, managed to secure registration, despite constitutional requirements specifying a minimum of 24 members from 24 states and the FCT. However, INEC ultimately deregistered this party due to its lack of seriousness.
Habib underscored the pivotal role of political parties as vehicles for governance and the delivery of government services to citizens. She stressed that parties with a mere 24 members would inevitably struggle to establish a meaningful presence at the local level during elections. In response to questions about whether INEC should be unbundled due to potentially overstretched responsibilities, Habib suggested that certain duties, such as investigation, could be removed from the commission’s scope of work.
In essence, INEC is taking a firm stance against the proliferation of small, seemingly inconsequential political parties, signaling its commitment to upholding stringent registration standards and safeguarding the integrity of Nigeria’s political landscape.