Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday stopped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from ending the voter registration on 30 June 2022.
Justice Olajuwon 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 other concerned Nigerians had earlier this month filed a 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”.
The commission is further 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”.
INEC says it will give effect to the ruling of the court. INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said this on Monday.
Although he did not specifically state whether or not the electoral umpire would go ahead with its initial plan to stop the exercise, the INEC official said the commission would continue to obey the orders of the court.
“The commission is a constitutional body, and we are under a constitutional obligation to give effect to judgements and orders of properly constituted courts of law, and we are going to give effect to the order made by the Federal High Court,” he said.
According to the INEC official, the CVR exercise has been ongoing for about a year as the online pre-registration and physical registration began in June and July 2021 respectively. He lamented that there were instances where the registration officers registered just an individual for the whole day, stressing that the cost implications cannot be overlooked.Okoye reiterated that the exercise was meant for only those who have not registered before and who have attained the again of 18 and above.