A Dangerous Attempt to Monetise the Electoral Process
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) condemns in strong terms a new decision taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after a meeting with registered political parties to increase administrative fees payable by groups wishing to register as a political party from N100, 000 to N1 million.
This is an affront on democracy and the rights of Nigerians to participate in the electoral process as well as on the right to freedom of association. More importantly it is an attempt to shut out the working and poor masses of Nigeria from the electoral process by making politics, including the right to form political parties and contest elections, the exclusive preserve of the rich few most especially the thieving members of the ruling elites.
INEC's alleged the reason for this flagrant and undemocratic decision is to "ensure that only serious groups are registered as political parties". To us in the SPN, this excuse is not only laughable, it is also ridiculous.
It is not part of the mandate of INEC to determine by fiat, or through astronomical increases in administrative fees, the seriousness or otherwise of any group wishing to register as a political party. The 1999 Constitution already spells out the terms and conditions that must be met by groups wishing to register as political parties. Any group that is able to meet these conditions is supposed to be automatically deemed eligible for registration. It is the responsibility of the electorate to thereafter determine the seriousness or otherwise of every registered political party. INEC's latest decision is therefore noting but an attempt to erect an artificial barricade in the path of popular democracy.
Against this background, the decision of INEC to increase administrative fees for party registration is not only illegal and undemocratic, it is equally an attempt to arrogate to itself dictatorial functions not provided for nor authorised by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We need to draw the attention of the Nigerian public to the fact that in South Africa, only about 500 Rand (about N8, 500) is required as administrative fees for registration of political parties.
However contrary to this face-saving excuse, the real agenda of INEC and Nigeria's ruling elite is clear: it is to prevent the emergence of pro-working people political parties that can pose a significant threat to the interest of the corrupt capitalist ruling elite who have been, and wish to continue for as long as possible, sitting on Nigeria's commonwealth, in the process stealing and milking the country dry while vast majority are condemned to poverty, homelessness and joblessness.
Rather than an independent electoral umpire which INEC claims to be, the latest actions and pronouncements of the Commission, including its recent flagrant deregistration of political parties, are meant to reduce the democratic space such that there would only be two political parties, both representing the interests of the rich, available for Nigerians to elect during elections. This, if achieved, would make Nigeria's electoral field a two-party system wherein the impoverished workers, the poor masses, the struggling market men and women, the ruined farmers and traders, the oppressed students and unemployed youths would have no political party representing them.
This is why it does not come as a surprise that this undemocratic decision was taken at a meeting between INEC and registered political parties without any report of disagreement or protest voiced by any of them including the self-acclaimed opposition political parties.
We call on the Nigerian working and poor masses, the labour movement and civil society organisations to stoutly resist this brutal attack on democratic rights with strikes and mass protests if necessary. We warn that this decision, if allowed to be implemented, would usher in civilian dictatorship and further restrict democratic space especially now that the poor working masses of Nigeria, more than ever, urgently desire a political party that fully represents their interest and can lead them to take over political power from the corrupt capitalist ruling elites who have, for over 52 years since independence, proved incapable of utilizing the immense human and natural resources of Nigeria to better the lot of all Nigerians.
Protem National Chairman
Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN)