Nigerian Senate, yesterday, said that it would reduce the number of political parties participating in elections in the country from the current 91 to five through legislation. The Senate stated this at a meeting with the leadership of INEC led by its chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, in the National Assembly, Abuja.
The apex legislative chamber expressed dissatisfaction over the number of political parties fielding candidates in the forthcoming governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states. In particular, the Chairman of the Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC Kano South) and former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (PDP Enugu West), said that the number of political parties that would be contesting elections was unwieldy and a contravention of the amended Electoral Act.
Ekweremadu expressed serious concerns over the number of political parties, which he insisted was a breach of the 2010 electoral Act (as amended). The former Deputy Senate President said that by virtue of the electoral Act, political parties, which failed to win a seat in the general elections should be deregistered. This prompted the committee chairman to query the INEC chairman on why such “failed” political parties would be allowed to appear on the ballot papers in Bayelsa and Kogi states.
“Those parties that didn’t perform shouldn’t be on the ballot. The existing electoral act as amended has precluded participation of parties that didn’t perform in the last elections.
Why are you putting them in the ballot in the forthcoming elections?” Gaya hinted that his committee was determined to reduce the number of existing political parties to three or five. “We need to amend the act to reduce the political parties to a maximum of five. This committee is really committed to reducing the number of political parties to save tax payers money,” he insisted. The INEC chairman, in his defence, said that the commission was in a dilemma to take decisive action to deregister political parties as a result of pending electoral litigations which could alter its judgement .
“The Commission had systematically deregistered many parties under the electoral act. But the parties insisted that the electoral act is inferior to the Constitution. “Again, at what point can we say election has been concluded? Is it after we have issued Certificate of Return or after the courts have concluded judgements on petitions arising from elections?” Earlier, giving an update on his Commission’s preparation for the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, Yakubu said that all non- sensitive materials had since been deployed and all other arrangements would be made for credible, free and fair elections in the two states.