By Oladosu Oluwagbenga
The Federal High Court in Abuja granted an interim order on Monday prohibiting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from completing the ongoing voter registration operation on June 30.
The temporary decision was issued by Judge Mobolaji Olajuwon in response to a request for an interim injunction filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 185 other concerned Nigerians.
The applicants had asked the court to extend the voter registration period in order to prevent the illegal disenfranchisement of numerous Nigerians who wanted to vote in various elections but had not yet been registered.
The applicants filed the suit after INEC extended the deadline for political parties to hold primaries by six days, from June 3 to June 9, but “failed to also extend the online pre-registration which ended May 30, 2022 and the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) which ended June 30, 2022,” according to a statement released by SERAP on Monday.
According to the statement, the court delayed the case to June 29 after approving the applicant’s request for an interim order extending the voter registration deadline.
READ SERAP’S FULL STATEMENT
The Federal High Court in Abuja has stopped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from ending voter registration on 30 June 2022.
Honourable Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon (Court 10) today granted an order of interim injunction following the hearing of an argument on motion exparte by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
SERAP and 185 concerned Nigerians had early this month filed the lawsuit against INEC asking the court to “declare unconstitutional, illegal, and incompatible with international standards the failure of the electoral body to extend the deadline for voter registration to allow eligible Nigerians to exercise their rights.”
In the suit, SERAP had asked the court for “an order restraining INEC, its agents, privies, assigns, or any other person(s) claiming through it from discontinuing the continuous voters’ registration exercise from the 30th June 2022 or any other date pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”
The suit is adjourned to 29th June, 2022 for the hearing of the Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.
The suit followed the decision by INEC to extend the deadline for the conduct of primaries by political parties by six days, from June 3 to June 9. But the commission failed to also extend the online pre-registration which ended May 30 2022 and the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ending 30 June 2022.
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1034/2022 filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos, and transferred to Abuja, SERAP is asking the court to determine “whether the failure of INEC to extend the deadline for voter registration is not a violation of Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended], the Electoral Act, and international standards.”
SERAP is asking the court for “a declaration that the failure of INEC to extend the deadline for voter registration is a violation of eligible Nigerians’ rights to participate freely in their own government, equality and equal protection.”
SERAP is also asking the court for “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to extend voter registration by a minimum of three months and take effective measures to ensure that eligible Nigerians are able to register to exercise their right to vote in the 2023 general elections.”
The suit, read in part: “Enforcing unrealistic voter registration deadline while extending the deadline for party primaries would deny and abridge the constitutional and international human rights of eligible voters.”
“INEC mandates ought to be exercised in a fair, just and non-discriminatory manner. The extension of voter registration would ensure that Nigerian voters are treated equally and fairly. The future of Nigeria’s democracy depends on it.”
“Voters are also critical stakeholders in the electoral process. Treating all eligible Nigerian voters fairly would advance the people’s right to vote and to participate in their own government.”
“INEC must not only be independent and impartial in the exercise of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.”
“Extending the voter registration exercise would also bolster voter confidence in the electoral process.”
“One of the people’s most sacred rights is the right to vote. The commission has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to ensure the effective exercise of the right of all eligible voters to participate in their own government.”
“Extending the deadline for party primaries without providing adequate time and opportunity for eligible voters to register and participate in the 2023 general elections would amount to an unfair and discriminatory treatment of Nigerian voters, and violate other human rights.”
“Extending the voter registration deadline would provide more time for eligible voters, including young people, the elderly, people living with disability, as well as those resident in states facing security challenges and living in IDP camps to participate in the 2023 elections.”