Few weeks after its threat, the Peter Obi Support Network has dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission to a Federal High Court in Abuja following its decision to stop the Continuous Voter Registration until at least 90 days to the 2023 general election.
According to Punch, the plaintiff in the suit with No FHC/ABJ/CS/1342/2022 filed on its behalf by a law firm, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu (SAN) & Co., argued that the abrupt termination of the voter registration exercise would disenfranchise millions of eligible voters during the 2023 presidential election.
The suit seeks, among other things, an order compelling INEC to reverse its earlier directive halting the CVR exercise across the country on July 31, 2022, and to declare as ultra vires the commission’s decision to put a timeline on the CVR exercise outside the timeline provided by the 2022 Electoral Act, as amended.
The Plaintiffs raised the following issues for determination:
“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 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 voter 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.
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“A declaration that it is the constitutional responsibility of the Defendant to make sure that every prospective Nigerian voter who has shown desire to register to vote is not deprived of their civil right to register and participate in the forthcoming General Election scheduled to take place on February 25, 2023 and March 11,
“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 February 25, 2023 and March 11, 2023.”
According to the lead Counsel, Ifeanyi Nrialike, over 300 members of the POSN across the 36 states and Abuja contacted the POSN legal team expressing frustration over their inability to register because of the stoppage of the voter registration exercise by INEC.
One of the plaintiffs, Ernest Stanley, said how on several occasions he visited the registration centre located at Lugbe for registration as a voter to no avail.
He said, “That in all instances I have been to the registration centres to get registered, I would meet a mammoth crowd of prospective voters who also came for the same purpose of which we queued under the sun for hours without being attended to.
“That at the registration centre that I have gone to get registered, there were not enough personnel such as the Registration Officer to attend to the crowd that came to be registered.
“That on several instances the registration would not go on with excuses that the system malfunctioned, and machine broke down being offered as the excuse and for the whole day there would be no registration exercise that would take place.
“That before you know what was happening, and to my chagrin, the defendant through its national chairman announced that the continuous voter registration exercise would stop on July 31, 2022.”