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Court orders INEC to resume voters’ registration, ensure eligible Nigerians not disenfranchised

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A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday, ruled in favour of the Peter Obi Support Network (POSN) over the discontinued Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The presiding judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, in the judgement delivered in the case filed by POSN members, ordered INEC to immediately resume voters’ registration until 90 days before the 2023 general elections stipulated in the Electoral Act (as amended).

The suit by Peter Obi Support Network, instituted between Hajia Salamat Anaja & 3ors Vs INEC, was filed by the group on August 4, 2022, by the law firm of Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN & Co., and came up today for Judgement.

The group, in the matter with suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1342/2022, among others, prayed the Federal High Court to compel INEC to continue the voter registration exercise till at least 19th November, 2022.

The case also raised several questions for determination as follows:

“Whether having regards to the combined provisions of Sections 76(2), 77(2), 116(2), 117(2), 132(2) & (5) and 178 (2) & (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) as well as Sections 9(1), 9 (6), 10(1) and 12(1) of the Electoral Acts, 2022, the Defendant can or has the right or latitude to stop the continuous voter’s registration on 31st July, 2022, about over Seven and Half (71/2) months (208 days), or any other day not until ninety (90) days before the General Elections when there are millions of prospective voters including the Plaintiffs who have not Registered and are willing to do so.”

The Plaintiffs prayed the court for the following reliefs:

  • “A DECLARATION that the Defendant is expected pursuant to the provisions of Sections 76(2), 77(2), 116(2), 117(2), 132(2) & (5) and 178 (2) & (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) as well as Sections 9(1), 9 (6), 10(1) and 12(1) of the Electoral Acts, 2022, to continue voters Registration, update and Revision of voters register till 90 days before the General Election billed to take place on 25th February, 2023 and 11th march, 2023.
  • “A DECLARATION that it is the Constitutional responsibility of the Defendant to make sure that every prospective Nigeria voter who have shown desire to Register to vote are not derived their Civil right to Register and participate in the forthcoming General Elections Scheduled to take place on 25th February,2023 and 11th March 2023.
  • “An order of the court directing the Defendant to resume immediately the registration of new voters, updating and revision of the register of voters until at least 90 days to the general election slated to hold on 25th February 2023 and 11th March, 2023.”

The parties had earlier adopted their various processes and the court adjoined for Judgement.

The plaintiffs in the suit had rejected the decision to stop voter registration until at least 90 days until the 2023 general election.

The Federal High Court in delivering its judgment raised a pertinent question: “Whether INEC’s (Defendant) abrupt termination of the Continuous Voter’s Registration was done reasonably or not”.

The Court, in answering the questions raised by the Plaintiffs’ counsel, Ifeanyi M. Nrialike Esq., came to the conclusion that the Defendant (INEC) acted in haste and unreasonably so.

Justice Ekwo insisted that the termination of the voter registration on the 31st of July, 2022 was wrong and not reasonable

The Court granted the reliefs to the extent that the Defendant should have only stopped the Continuous Voter’s Registration not later than 90 days before the election

In the judgment, the judge ordered INEC to resume voter registration and also ensure that eligible Nigerians were not deprived the opportunity to have their voter’s card for the forthcoming poll.

He held that it was the constitutional responsibility of the electoral umpire to make adequate provision for the exercise in accordance with the Nigerian laws.

Speaking shortly after the judgement, Barrister Nrialike said that “the court has shown herself once more to be the last hope of the common man.” Read more.

 

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