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7m Nigerians drag INEC before court against voter registration denial

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

Ahead of next year’s general election, over seven million Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for not giving them adequate time and opportunity to complete their voter registration after they had commenced carried out their registration online.

 

They are arguing that the court should compel the electoral umpire to adjust it’s timetable for the election, reopen it’s portal and allow them complete the registration process earlier before the election in 2023.

 

The plaintiff noted that the opportunity would afford them the time to obtain their permanent voter cards (PVCs), and exercise their fundamental rights during the election in the country.

 

INEC was draged before Federal High Court, Abuja after all efforts to persuade the electoral umpire in bending it’s rules for them proved abortive.

 

The suit was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) through its counsels, Kolawole Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo, and was disclosed to newsmen on Sunday.

 

The suit came days after the commission disclosed that 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 percent of completed online registration.

 

In the suit with number FHC/ABJ/CS/1662/2022 and filed by 24 persons on behalf of the other seven million Nigerians involved, they were further asking that the Court direct and compel INEC to re-activate its continuous voters registration exercise to allow them to complete their registration and collect their PVCs.

 

Aside that, they were also asking that the commission provide adequate facilities and deploy personnel to the registration units of the plaintiffs to enable them complete their registration and collect their PVCs without undergoing any undue stress in their communities.

 

The Plaintiffs are also arguing that, “The inability to complete our registration is entirely due to factors outside of 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 24 Nigerians suing INEC, who argued that the decision by INEC to deny eligible Nigerians access to complete the process indicated that the electoral umpire cannot be trusted to be fair during the exercise, were: Adeeyo Wasiu; Kunat Amos; Tagbo Chidubem; Emeghe Grace; Ayoola Ebenezer; Eche Otakpa; Olatoye Damilola; and Ogunejiofor Emeka.

 

Also include: Adedotun Babatunde; Emmanuel Tochukwu; Emmanuel Ternajev; Oluwadamilola Ige; Lawerence Ignatius; Agbede Kunle; Eze Ndubuisi; and Nkemdilim Bassey.

 

Others were: Omoike Oseine; Joshua Ogenekaro; Wisdom Emeka; Ukpe Destiny; Abayomi Opeoluwa; Ndubuisi Ahanihu; Akande Akintunde; and Adamma Rhodes.

 

According to statement released by their counsel, although a suit file had been assigned but the court was yet to fix a date for the hearing of the suit before it against INEC.

 

“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 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 have 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 percent, 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 percent 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.”

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