Wednesday, October 5, 2022

2023 Election: Angry Nigerians sue INEC over stoppage of registration 

The plaintiffs are seeking the courts leave to compel INEC to allow them and seven million others complete their voter registration.

• September 18, 2022
Enugu youths queue for INEC CVR
People queuing for INEC CVR used to illustrate the story [Photo Credit: Igbere Tv]

Some intending voters have dragged INEC before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court in Abuja, for not allowing them reasonable time to complete their registration

The plaintiffs, who are twenty-four in number, are suing for themselves and on behalf of seven million Nigerians who are yet to complete the registration process to obtain their permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) ahead of the 2023 elections. 

The plaintiffs 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 include Adedotun Adegoke Babatunde; Emmanuel Promise Tochukwu; Emmanuel Ternajev; Joy Oluwadamilola Ige; Lawerence Ignatius; Agbede Kunle; Eze Daniel Ndubisi; and Nkemdilim Agbor Bassey.

Others are: Omoike Iredia Oseine; Joshua Patrick Ogenekaro; Wisdom Emeka; Ukpe Victor Destiny; Abayomi Opeoluwa; Ndubuisi Anthony Ahanihu; Akande Akintunde O; and Adamma Rhodes.

In their suit with number 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 seeking “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.”

In their argument, the plaintiffs said denying them the time and opportunity to complete the registration for their PVCs would impair their right to vote, and deny them a voice in the 2023 elections.

They posited, “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.”

Kolawole Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), filed the suits on behalf of the plaintiffs before the Abuja Federal High Court.

SERAP, in a statement titled, “Closing the gates on eligible Nigerians cannot preserve trust in the electoral process,” issued by the group’s deputy director, Mr Oluwadare, alleged that ” 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.”

SERAP further alleged that “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 body argued further: “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.”

The group said “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.”

No date has been fixed yet for the hearing of the case.  

INEC on July 31, 2022, ended the CVR exercise after it extended it for one month from June 30, following pressure from Nigerians especially civil society organisations.

The electoral body also disclosed that it had delisted more than one million newly registered voters following the “clean up” of the register ahead of the 2023 election exercise.

It explained that those affected by the development are people who registered between June 2021 and January 2022 to get their PVCs.

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