JUST IN: Court bans INEC from ending voter registration

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INEC

A Federal High Court in Abuja has barred the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from ending voter registration on June 30, 2022.

Judge Mobolaji Olajuwon (Court 10) on Monday granted an interim injunction order following the hearing of an argument on an exparte motion by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

SERAP and 185 Nigerians concerned 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 registration deadline. voters to enable eligible Nigerians to exercise their rights”. .”

In the lawsuit, SERAP had asked the court “for an order enjoining INEC, its agents, assigns, assigns or any other person(s) claiming through it from discontinuing the continuous enrollment exercise voters from June 30, 2022 or any other date pending the hearing and decision on the motion on notice.

The prosecution is adjourned to June 29, 2022 for the hearing of the motion for notice of interlocutory injunction.

The lawsuit follows INEC’s decision to extend the deadline for political parties to hold primaries by six days, from June 3 to June 9. But the commission also did not extend online pre-registration which ended on May 30, 2022 and Voter Registration (CVR) ending on June 30, 2022.

In complaint number FHC/L/CS/1034/2022 filed with the Federal High Court in Lagos and transferred to Abuja, SERAP asks the court to determine “whether the failure of INEC to extend the voter registration is not a violation of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended]electoral law and international standards.

SERAP is asking the court “for a declaration that the failure of INEC to extend the deadline for voter registration constitutes a violation of the rights of eligible Nigerians to participate freely in their own government, equality and equal protection”.

SERAP is also asking the court “for an order of mandamus to direct and compel the INEC to extend voter registration for at least three months and to take effective measures to ensure that eligible Nigerians can register to exercise their right to vote in the general elections of 2023″. elections.”

The lawsuit, in part, said: “Enforcing an unrealistic voter registration deadline while extending the deadline for the party primaries would deny and restrict the constitutional and international human rights of eligible voters.

“INEC’s mandates must be exercised in an equitable, just and non-discriminatory manner. Extending voter registration would ensure that Nigerian voters are treated equally and fairly. The future of Nigerian democracy depends on it.

“Voters are also essential actors in the electoral process. Treating all eligible Nigerian voters fairly would advance the right of the people to vote and participate in their own government.

“INEC must not only be independent and impartial in carrying out its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.

“Expanding the voter registration exercise would also build voter confidence in the electoral process.

“One of the people’s most sacred rights is the right to vote. The commission has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to ensure the effective exercise of the right of all eligible voters to participate in their own government.

“Extending the deadline for party primaries without allowing sufficient time and opportunity for eligible voters to register and participate in the 2023 general election would amount to unfair and discriminatory treatment of Nigerian voters and violate other human rights. ‘man.”

“Extending the deadline for voter registration would give more time to eligible voters, including young people, the elderly, people with disabilities, as well as people residing in states with security challenges and living in IDP camps to participate in the 2023 elections.”

“Extending the deadline for voter registration would be fully in line with constitutional and international standards, as well as electoral law. Such an extension would also not have a negative impact on the electoral calendar and the activities of the INEC.

“Public perception of INEC’s independence and impartiality is key to building public confidence in the electoral process and ensuring the credibility and legitimacy of the 2023 elections.”

“Where Nigerians have doubts about the independence and impartiality of the INEC, they are more likely to have less confidence in the electoral process, thereby undermining democracy.”

“Extending the deadline for voter registration would also be justified, given reports of difficulties in exercising voter registration, particularly for young people, the elderly, people with disabilities and people residing in states facing security problems and living in displaced persons (displaced persons camps).

“The will of the people is expressed through democratic elections. This requires that people have enough time and opportunities to register to vote. Extending the deadline for voter registration is crucial to promote the independence and impartiality of INEC and build public confidence in the electoral process.

“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) provides in Section 14(1)(c) that ‘Participation of the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution’.”

“Section 9(6) of the Elections Act 2022 provides that “Voter registration, updating and review of the voter register under this section shall not cease later than 90 days prior to any election covered by this Act. “”

“Similarly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance guarantee the right to political participation.

“These human rights treaties also require state parties, including Nigeria, to guarantee the independence and impartiality of national electoral bodies charged with the management of elections, as well as to promote the establishment necessary conditions to promote citizen participation”.

“The right of people to participate in their government is a fundamental feature of any democratic society, and any undue restriction of this right would strike at the heart of representative government.

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