Senate President, Dr. David B. Mark, has waded into the dispute between the Fresh Democratic Party, FRESH and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC over the latters’ deregistration of the party, founded by Rev. Chris Okotie, according to a press release issued in Lagos by Ladi Ayodeji, the party’s spokesman.
It will be recalled that INEC delisted the party along with 27 others in December 2012, for alleged failure to win at least, one seat at either the State, or National Assembly; as well as the Governorship or Presidency. The Electoral umpire invoked the order based on the controversial Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended).
FRESH, along with Rev. Okotie, and Adefela Binutu, contested the deregistration at the Federal High court 5, Abuja Division; with INEC, the Attorney General of the Federation, the National Assembly and the Inspector General of the Police, IG, as defendants. In a landmark judgment handed down by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, the deregistration was not only voided, the entire Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) was ruled illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.
However, since the judgment was delivered on July 29, 2013, INEC has refused to recertify the party as expected. Consequently, both the Commission and FRESH have been involved in intense media skirmishes over the matter for about a year now. Several newspapers editorials and commentators have made strong cases for INEC to obey the court judgement, to no avail.
However, recently Hon. Daniel Reynieju of the PDP, representing Delta State in the House of Representative sponsored a bill broadly titled, “An Act to Further Amend the Electoral Act, No. 6, 2010 and matters connected therewith, Electoral Act (Amended bill 2014)”. The bill was passed by the senate during the week after going through the third reading.
While the bill was pending, the lead counsel to the Fresh Party in the deregistration case, Dr. Fred Agbaje wrote a petition dated June 20, 2014 to the senate president in which he protested the Amendment, arguing that there’s an extant judgement on the subject matter pertaining to the bill, which makes the amendment illegal.
The Senate President, in a swift response in a letter to Dr. Agbaje dated June 26, 2014, said he had referred the petition to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitutional Review for further necessary action.
FRESH Party officials who expressed gratitude for the prompt reaction of the Senator President, urged the National Assembly to revisit the matter to ensure justice is done to its hard won victory.