A group of Nigerians under the aegis of Peter Obi Support Network (POSN) has sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over its failure to comply with the constitutional provision that requires the commission to continue voter registration until at least 90 days to the general elections.
In a suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/1342/2022 filed on their behalf by Abuja law firm, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN & Co., the Plaintiffs argue that INEC’s abrupt termination of the voter registration exercise would disenfranchise millions of eligible voters during the 2023 presidential election.
The suit filed at the Federal High Court Abuja on Friday, August 5, 2022, seeks, among other things, an order compelling INEC to reverse its earlier directive halting the Continuous Voter Registration (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’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.”
Consequently, it prayed 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, 2o23.
“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 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.”
According to the lead Counsel, Ifeanyi Nrialike, over 300 members of the Peter Obi Support Network (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 Voters Registration exercise by INEC.
One of the Plaintiffs, Ernest N. Stanley, narrated how on several occasions he attended at the registration Center located at Lugbe for registration as a Voter to no avail.
In an affidavit, Stanley stated, “That in all instances I have been to the Registration centers to get registered, I will meet a mammoth crowd of prospective voters who also came for the same purpose of which we queue under the sun for hours without being attended to.
“That at the registration center that I have gone to get registered there are 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 will be no registration exercise that will take place.
“That before you know what is happening, and to my chagrin, the Defendant through its National Chairman announced that the continuous voters Registration Exercise will stop on 31st July 2022.”
It would be recalled that many stakeholders have been taking INEC to task with respect to Continuous Voters’ Registration (CVR).
Recently, the Commission was forced to extend the exercise till late July this year following a relief sought by a public transparency and accountability body – SERAP.