Court Strikes Out Suit Seeking to Compel INEC To Allow Voting Without PVC

Paschal Emeka, Abuja | January 31, 2023

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has declined to order the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to allow the use of Temporary Voters Cards or Voters Identification Numbers (VIN) during the 2023 general elections.

The suit dated December 29, 2022, against INEC was filed by the Incorporated Trustees of the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, Barrister Emmanuel Chukwuka, and Mr. Bruno Okeahialam.

The group had earlier claimed to be representing 29 million registered voters about to be disenfranchised in the 2023 general election

The plaintiff’s lawyer, M.N. Ozoaka, had sought the following reliefs:

“A Declaration that all Persons who have duly registered with the INEC 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.

”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 to vote in the forthcoming general elections fixed for February to March 2023.

“Or as an alternative, 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 old (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.

Ozoaka had told Justice Binta Nyako last Monday, that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, is designed to read the details of registered voters without PVCs since the VIN is captured on the INEC database.

But INEC’s legal representative, Abdul Aziz Sabi SAN, had urged the court to decline jurisdiction on the matter because the electoral umpire has extended the deadline for collection of PVCs.

He also denied the plaintiff’s claim that the last six digits (of VIN) can be captured by BVAS, describing it as “mysterious”, adding that INEC guidelines cannot be interpreted narrowly.

He contended that the plaintiff ought to have attached the temporary voter card of the supposed 29 million people as proof before the court.

Passing her verdict on Tuesday, Justice Nyako held that the application amounts to an academic exercise because the PVC collection exercise is not over.

“The Commission has insisted that only PVC will be used,” she said.

“This application is hereby struck out,” the judge said, adding she would not dismiss it, giving the applicant another window to sue again.

She continued that the development is a dicey situation because INEC has been asking Nigerians to come and collect their PVCs while several electoral institutions including PVCs, have been burnt down.

“Unless you are going to give me the number of PVCs that are uncollected and those remaining, then I can make a decision,” the judge told the plaintiff.

In addition, she observed that the Electoral Act states that any “technological device” can be used at the polls.

She said in the event many don’t get their PVCs, INEC still has time to solve the problem, adding the Commission would have to tell Nigerians what technological device that can be used aside from PVC.

Reacting, after the judgment was given, Ozoaka told newsmen that the court did not look into the merit of his case.

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