A human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja for an order of mandatory injunction compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to extend the Continuous Voter’s Registration Exercise till November 27, 2022.The request, according to the senior lawyer, is to prevent the disenfranchisement of millions of eligible voters in the 2023 general elections who are yet to be registered by INEC for the said election.
In a suit filed on August 5, 2022, the plaintiffs claimed that the stoppage of registration of eligible voters by INEC on July 31, this year without due recourse to the Electoral Act was tantamount to “executive lawlessness and constitutional infractions.”While Ozekhome and Abubakar Sani, who are yet to be registered voters are the plaintiffs in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1335/2022, the electoral umpire is the sole defendant.
In a 14-paragraph affidavit deposed in support of the suit, Abubakar Sani argued that unless the court intervenes, he and other millions of eligible voters who are yet to be registered by INEC would be disenfranchised from exercising their rights to vote in the 2023 general election scheduled to commence from February 25.
According to the deponent, who claimed to be above the age of 18 required for qualification to be registered for an election, all efforts to get registered before INEC stopped registration on July 31, were unsuccessful owing to the mammoth crowd that characterised various INEC registration centres he visited.Sani, who claimed to be keenly interested in voting in next year’s general election, noted that unless he and millions of others in his shoe are duly registered by INEC, they would not be able to vote in the election.
The plaintiffs argued that while the electoral body is saddled with the conduct of credible elections in the country, the cessation of the registration of eligible voters last July contravened both the Electoral Act, Constitutional and the African on Human and People’s Rights.According to Ozekhome, the law provides that INEC shall continue to register eligible voters until 90 days to an election, adding that the stoppage on July 31, was over six months before the general election slated for February 25 next year.
He further stated that by stopping the registration exercise, INEC violated the provisions of the law, adding that the court has the necessary legal grounds to intervene and compel INEC to adhere to the provisions of the law.
Among the questions raised for determination include whether taking into consideration Sections 9(6) and 10(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which mandates INEC to continue registration of voters up to 90 days to an election, INEC can stop or terminate the registration of eligible voters on July 31, which is more than six months to the next general election scheduled to commence on February 25.
Ozekhome further asked whether by the provisions of the law INEC can refuse or decline to register an eligible voter who has attained the age of 18 years and present himself or herself for registration before 90 days to next year’s general election.
He urged the court to after answering the questions raised in the suit in his favour, make a declaration that INEC cannot purport to terminate the continuous voter’s registration on July 31, as doing so will disenfranchise millions of eligible voters.
He also urged the court to declare INEC’s stoppage of registration on July 31 as ultra vires, invalid, null and void.Meanwhile, the plaintiffs have also applied for an accelerated hearing of the matter in the interest of justice.According to them, irreparable damage would be done to plaintiffs and others, if the matter is not heard timeously as they would be barred from participating in the 2023 polls.