The Federal High Court on 23/12/2022 heard an ex parte application urging the court to abridge time within which the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, may file their defence to a lawsuit instituted against INEC by the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) & two others urging the court to reverse INEC’ proposed ‘NO PVC, NO VOTING’ stand.
In the Originating Summons issued and filed on 22/12/22, on behalf of Intersociety by their Lead Counsel, Max N. Ozoaka, Esq, and seen at the registry of the Federal High Court, the plaintiffs are praying the court to give proper legal interpretation to the provision of Section 47(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 in order to enable registered voters whose names are contained and captured in INEC’s register of voters and electronic database and who for one reason or the other but for no fault of theirs have not been issued their PVC, to vote on the strength of their temporary voter’s card or registration acknowledgement slip earlier issued to them by INEC.
The plaintiffs (Intersociety, Barrister Emmanuel Chukwuka, & Mr. Bruno Okeahialam), bringing the class action “for themselves and on behalf of all registered voters about to be disenfranchised by the defendant in the 2023 General Election”, argued in their written argument accompanying the Originating Summons which were both served on INEC earlier on 23/12/22, that the INEC stand of ‘NO PVC NO VOTING’ is not the proper interpretation of Section 47(1) of the recently enacted Electoral Act of 2022, especially having regard to the fact that many people who do not have the PVC is not necessarily due to not having made efforts to collect the PVC but for faults, compromise and lapses on INEC’s part.
In the Summons, the plaintiffs raised the following question for the determination of the court:
“1. Having regard to the clear unambiguous provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022, and the true intendment of Section 47 (1) thereof, whether the Defendant can as a consequence of their own compromise, contraption, bottleneck and or negligence disenfranchise or otherwise deprive the Plaintiffs and the class of persons they represent in this suit the right and opportunity to vote in the forthcoming general election fixed for February 25 to March 12, 2023.”
The Plaintiffs added as follows:
“If the answer to the above question is resolved in favour of the Plaintiffs, the Plaintiffs seek the following Reliefs:
1. A Declaration that having registered and been duly captured in the Defendant’s Register of Voters and electronic Database of registered voters, the Plaintiffs and all persons they represent in this suit are entitled to exercise their right to vote in the forthcoming general elections fixed for February to March 2023.
2. A Declaration that all persons who have duly registered with the Defendant as voters and whose names are contained in the Defendant’s Register of Voters and or electronic database of registered voters should not and cannot be deprived of the right and opportunity to vote in the forthcoming general election fixed for February to March 2023.
3. An Order of the Honourable Court compelling the Defendant to release forthwith the Permanent Voters’ Cards of the Plaintiffs and all members of their class to enable them vote in the forthcoming general election fixed for February to March 2023.
OR AS ALTERNATIVE TO RELIEF 3 ABOVE,
3a. An Order of the Honourable Court directing the Defendant to reprint, distribute and release the Permanent Voters’ Cards of the Plaintiffs and all persons they represent in this suit or otherwise allow them to vote with their temporary voters’ cards or registration slips already issued and released to them by the Defendant the affected persons having been duly registered and captured in the Defendant’s register of voters and or electronic database of registered voters.
4. Such further order and or other order/s as the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this case.”
Ruling on the exparte application for abridgment of time for INEC to file their processes, the vacation Judge of the Federal High Court and the Acting Chief Judge of the Court, Hon. Justice B.F.M. Nyako, fixed January 5, 2023, for hearing.
The Bailiff of the Court confirmed that INEC was duly served earlier today, 23/12/2022 with the Order of Court and the Originating Summons.
The interesting lawsuit gives a glimpse of hope to all duly registered voters who have made unsuccessful efforts to collect their PVC, to vote in the coming election.