2023 Polls: Court Rejects Voters Registration Extension Request

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Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday, declined to order the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to resume the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise.

 

However, the court, in a judgement that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission, by provisions of sections 76 (2), 77 (2), 116 (2), 117 (2), 132 (2) & (5) and 178 (2) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as sections 9 (1), 9 (6), 10 (1) and 12 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, is expected to continue the registration of voters, update and revise the register, until 90 days before the general election.

 

It held there was merit in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1343/2022, which was filed before it by four plaintiffs, Anajat Salmat, Earnest Stanley, Charles Okafor and Samuel Oluwakemi.

 

It, however, refused prayers by the plaintiffs for an order to compel INEC to resume the voter registration exercise.

 

Justice Ekwo stressed that though INEC has a responsibility to ensure that eligible voters are not deprived of their right to participate in the election, he held that in view of the already released timetable, the Commission, has a few days away from the prescribed 90 days before the general elections.

 

“It is the constitutional responsibility of the defendant (INEC) 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 elections scheduled to take place on 25th February 2023 and 11th March 2023.”

 

“This court is unable to grant relief number 3 of the plaintiffs because going by the date of this judgement, from the date of this judgement, the defendant will have just a few days away from 90 days before the general elections of 25th February 2023 and 11th March 2023″, Justice Ekwo held.

 

The plaintiffs had approached the court to challenge INEC’s decision to end the voter registration exercise on July 31.

 

They had among other things prayed the court to declare that INEC, which was listed as the sole defendant in the matter, “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”

 

“A declaration that it is the constitutional responsibility of the defendant to make sure that every prospective Nigerian voter who has shown a desire to register to vote is not deprived of their civil right to register and participate in the forthcoming general elections.

 

As well as, “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 5th February 2023 and 11th March 2023.”

 

INEC had through its team of lawyers, urged the court to dismiss the suit.

 

It argued that the CVR exercise was ended on July 31 to enable the printing and effective distribution of Permanent Voters’ Cards, PVCs, to already registered citizens.

 

In his judgement, Justice Ekwo held that the case of the plaintiffs succeeded on merit but declined to order the resumption of the registration exercise.

 

“The case of the plaintiffs, therefore, succeeds on merit and I answer their sole question in the negative.

 

“I also answer the questions of the defendant as follows:

 

“Question 1, partially in the positive, and Question 2, in the positive”, the court held.