The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was last Friday dragged before an Abuja Federal High Court over alleged failure to give twenty-four Nigerians, alongside other seven million persons the opportunity to complete their voter registration after they have carried out their registration online.
In the legal action, the plaintiffs, are seeking to complete the registration process so that they can obtain their permanent voter cards (PVCs), and exercise their right to vote.
The electoral body had recently made public that out of 10,487,972 Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online, only 3,444,378 completed the process at a physical centre. This, represents just 32.8 per cent of completed online registration, according to the Commission.
In the suit designated FHC/ABJ/CS/1662/2022, the Plaintiffs are seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to re-activate its continuous voters’ registration exercise to allow the Plaintiffs to complete their registration and collect their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs).”
They are also praying to the court for “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to provide adequate facilities and deploy personnel to the registration units of the Plaintiffs to enable them to complete their registration and collect their PVCs.”
According to the plaintiffs, “We have completed the online registration exercise. Denying us the time and opportunity to complete the registration for our PVCs would impair our right to vote, and deny us a voice in the 2023 elections.
“The inability to complete our registration is entirely due to factors outside our control. We are eligible Nigerians but unless we are given a reasonable time and opportunity to complete the registration process, and obtain our voter cards, we will not be able to vote in the 2023 general elections.”
The twenty-four Nigerians include Adeeyo Bayo Wasiu; Kunat Tychius Amos; Tagbo Philips Chidubem; Emeghe Uchanma Grace; Ayoola Opeyemi Ebenezer; Eche Onah Otakpa; Olatoye Clement Damilola; and Ogunejiofor Raphael Emeka.
Others are Adedotun Adegoke Babatunde; Emmanuel Promise Tochukwu; Emmanuel Ternajev; Joy Oluwadamilola Ige; Lawerence Ignatius; Agbede Kunle; Eze Daniel Ndubisi; Nkemdilim Agbor Bassey; Omoike Iredia Oseine; Joshua Patrick Ogenekaro; Wisdom Emeka; Ukpe Victor Destiny; Abayomi Opeoluwa; Ndubuisi Anthony Ahanihu; Akande Akintunde O; and Adamma Rhodes.
The action, which was initiated on behalf of the Plaintiffs by lawyers to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Kolawole Oluwadare, and Ms Adelanke Aremo, read in part: “Closing the gates on eligible Nigerians cannot preserve trust in the electoral process.
“According to reports, the inability of Nigerians to complete their voters’ registration exercise or even transfer their permanent voters’ card, affected wide spectrums of persons, hence this class action by the identified plaintiffs on behalf of other affected Nigerians.
“There were reports of incidence of bribery, unethical conducts of INEC staff, registration process marred by irregularities, insufficient machines, malfunctioning of machines, insufficient staff and unskilled staff, before the defendant ended the Continuous Voters Registration Exercise on the 31st July 2022.
“The right to vote is not merely the right to cast a ballot, but also the right to be given the time and opportunity to complete the registration process so that the right can be meaningfully and effectively exercised.
“Any proffered justifications of saving time and cost are therefore wholly insufficient. Administrative convenience is simply not a compelling justification in light of the fundamental nature of the right to vote.
“This severe vote deprivation cannot be justified by any perceived considerations of saving time, especially because Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that ‘the registration of voters, updating and revision of the Register of Voters shall not stop not later than 90 days before any election covered by this Act.’
“Providing a fresh opportunity for the Plaintiffs and seven million other Nigerians to complete their registration would promote and preserve the right to vote, and ensure that legal and eligible voters are not inadvertently and unjustifiably turned away from exercising their fundamental right to vote.
“The Plaintiffs are Nigerians who commenced the voters’ registration exercises in their respective states via successful online enrolment at the respective dates but could not complete the registration process and obtain their voters’ cards.
“The plaintiffs also include those who are interested in transferring their permanent voters’ cards to another location so that they can vote.
“The Plaintiffs and other eligible Nigerians have the rights to equal treatment before the law, equal protection, non-discrimination, and equal opportunities to participate in the government of Nigeria.
“By refusing the Plaintiffs and seven million other Nigerians the opportunity to complete the registration for their PVCs, INEC has unfairly, unreasonably, and unjustifiably denied them the opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner as to the reasons for not completing their registration.
“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) provides in Section 14(1)(c) that, ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.’
“Similarly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance guarantee the right to political participation, including the right to vote.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), recently disclosed that over seven million Nigerians who carried out their voter pre-registration online could not complete the process at physical centres.
“According to a report released by INEC, out of 10,487,972 Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online, only 3,444,378 Nigerians, representing 32.8 per cent, completed the process at a physical centre. 7,043,594 Nigerians carried out their pre-registration but are yet to complete the process at a physical centre.
“This represents over 67 per cent of those who began their registration process online. According to INEC, a total of 12,298,944 Nigerians completed their voter registration; 8,854,566 of which were persons who did their registration entirely at a physical centre.
“The Plaintiffs and seven million other Nigerians have already completed their registration online, that is, via INEC online portal by providing their biodata and required documents.
“According to INEC, the process that is outstanding for the applicants to complete the registration for their PVCs is to visit INEC designated centres for their biometric to be captured.”
No date has been fixed for the suit to be heard.
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