Court fixes October 4 to hear Benue IDPs’ disenfranchisement suit against INEC
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Wednesday fixed October 4 for hearing a suit filed by some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Benue against Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over an alleged move to disenfranchise them in the 2023 elections.
Justice Inyang Ekwo ordered following a breakdown in terms of settlement by the plaintiffs and the defendant.
INEC is the sole defendant in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/104/2022 and filed on February 16 by Abraham Aporugha and 30 others on behalf of all the IDPs from the Guma Local Government Area of Benue.
The plaintiffs had dragged INEC before the court over an alleged attempt to deny them the opportunity to partake in the just-concluded Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, which ended July 31.
When the matter was called for a report of settlement, counsel for the plaintiffs, Kalu Onuoha, informed that on the last adjourned date on July 22, the court urged the parties to find an amicable way of resolving the issue.
Mr Onuoha said the terms of the settlement, according to the court, would form the court’s judgment.
The lawyer, however, said the electoral umpire was not serious about the court’s directive.
He said INEC, instead, wrote a letter to the court registrar, which he could not understand.
Mr Onuoha, who said INEC was not interested in settling the matter amicably, said it seemed the commission wanted the court to decide on the case.
Responding, lawyer to the INEC, Patricia Obi, said the plaintiffs were not the only IDPs in the state, and the commission could not have singled them out for special treatment.
Mr Ekwo, in a short ruling, adjourned the matter until October 4 for a hearing.
On the last adjourned date, the judge had advised counsel for the parties to look around for registration centres close to the IDP camps and report back to the court in writing so that the court could adopt the finding in its judgment by directing the centres to accommodate the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs, in the suit, are contending, among others, that INEC’s alleged refusal to register them in the CVR exercise and provide them with polling units in their IDP camps amounted to a violation of their constitutional rights.
The plaintiffs also said that INEC is in breach of its duties under sections 10(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act and Paragraph 15(c) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the constitution.
They prayed the court to, among others, compel INEC to register them and issue them with permanent voter’s cards (PVC) and cute polling units in their camps since they have been displaced from their various homes.
In a supporting affidavit, Mr Aporugha stated that he was an IDP living at the IDP Camp in Makurdi, Benue.
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