A Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from terminating voter registration by this month-end.
Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon of Court 10, yesterday, granted an order of interim injunction following the hearing of an argument on motion ex parte by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The group had, early this month, filed the lawsuit against INEC through its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, 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 affiliate from discontinuing the exercise from June 30 or any other date pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
The case followed the decision by the electoral body to extend the closing date 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 and the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ending June 30.
In the suit numbered FHC/L/CS/1034/2022 and filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos, but later transferred to Abuja, the rights group is asking the court to determine whether INEC’s failure to extend the deadline for voter registration “is not a violation of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Electoral Act and international standards.”
SERAP is also asking the court for a declaration that the INEC’s failure 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.”
The organisation is equally seek 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 registered to exercise their right to vote in the 2023 general elections.
The case has, however, been adjourned to June 29 for hearing of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction. The suit reads 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.”