The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has moved to clarify its position as some Nigerians filed a suit claiming that they were not allowed to complete voter registration.
The row began as twenty-four Nigerians filed a lawsuit against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for “failing to give them and other seven million Nigerians adequate time and opportunity to complete their voter registration after they have carried out their registration online.”
The Plaintiffs who are suing for themselves and on behalf of seven million other Nigerians want to “complete the registration process, so that they can obtain their permanent voter cards (PVCs), and exercise their right to vote.”
A press release Sunday noted that INEC recently disclosed that out of 10,487,972 Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online, only 3,444,378 completed the process at a physical centre. This represents just 32.8 percent of completed online registration.
But in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1662/2022 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the Plaintiffs are seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to re-activate its continuous voters registration exercise to allow the Plaintiffs to complete their registration and collect their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs).”
The Plaintiffs are also seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to provide adequate facilities and deploy personnel to the registration units of the Plaintiffs to enable them complete their registration and collect their PVCs.”
The Plaintiffs are arguing that, “We have completed the online registration exercise. Denying us the time and opportunity to complete the registration for our PVCs would impair our right to vote, and deny us a voice in the 2023 elections.”
The Plaintiffs are also arguing that, “The inability to complete our registration is entirely due to factors outside of our control. We are eligible Nigerians but unless we are given a reasonable time and opportunity to complete the registration process, and obtain our voter cards, we will not be able to vote in the 2023 general elections.”
The twenty-four Nigerians include: Adeeyo Bayo Wasiu; Kunat Tychius Amos; Tagbo Philips Chidubem; Emeghe Uchanma Grace; Ayoola Opeyemi Ebenezer; Eche Onah Otakpa; Olatoye Clement Damilola; and Ogunejiofor Raphael Emeka.
Others include: Adedotun Adegoke Babatunde; Emmanuel Promise Tochukwu; Emmanuel Ternajev; Joy Oluwadamilola Ige; Lawerence Ignatius; Agbede Kunle; Eze Daniel Ndubisi; and Nkemdilim Agbor Bassey.
Others are: Omoike Iredia Oseine; Joshua Patrick Ogenekaro; Wisdom Emeka; Ukpe Victor Destiny; Abayomi Opeoluwa; Ndubuisi Anthony Ahanihu; Akande Akintunde O; and Adamma Rhodes.
The suit filed on behalf of the Plaintiffs by lawyers to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Adelanke Aremo, read in part: “Closing the gates on eligible Nigerians cannot preserve trust in the electoral process.”
“According to reports, the inability of Nigerians to complete their voters registration exercise or even transfer their permanent voters’ card, affected wide spectrums of persons, hence this class action by the identified plaintiffs on behalf of other affected Nigerians.”
“There were reports of incidence of bribery, unethical conducts of INEC staff, registration process marred by irregularities, insufficient machines, malfunctioning of machines, insufficient staff and unskilled staff, before the defendant ended the Continuous Voters Registration Exercise on the 31st July, 2022.”
“The right to vote is not merely the right to cast a ballot but also the right to be given the time and opportunity to complete the registration process, so that the right can be meaningfully and effectively exercised.”
“Any proffered justifications of saving time and cost are therefore wholly insufficient. Administrative convenience is simply not a compelling justification in light of the fundamental nature of the right to vote.”
“This severe vote deprivation cannot be justified by any perceived considerations of saving time, especially because Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that ‘the registration of voters, updating and revision of the Register of Voters shall not stop not later than 90 days before any election covered by this Act.’”
“Providing fresh opportunity for the Plaintiffs and seven million other Nigerians to complete their registration would promote and preserve the right to vote, and ensure that legal and eligible voters are not inadvertently and unjustifiably turned away from exercising their fundamental right to vote.”
“The Plaintiffs are Nigerians who commenced the voters registration exercises in their respective states via successful online enrolment at the respective dates but could not complete the registration process, and obtain their voters cards.”
“The plaintiffs also include those who are interested in transferring their permanent voters’ cards to another location so that they can vote.”
“The Plaintiffs and other eligible Nigerians have the rights to equal treatment before the law, equal protection, non-discrimination and equal opportunities to participate in the government of Nigeria.”
“By refusing the Plaintiffs and seven million other Nigerians the opportunity to complete the registration for their PVCs, INEC have unfairly, unreasonably, and unjustifiably denied them the opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner as to the reasons for not completing their registration.”
“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) provides in Section 14(1)(c) that, ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.’”
“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, including the right to vote.”
“The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), recently disclosed that over seven million Nigerians who carried out their voter pre-registration online could not complete the process at physical centres.”
“According to a report released by INEC, out of 10,487,972 Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online, only 3,444,378 Nigerians representing 32.8 percent, completed the process at a physical centre. 7,043,594 Nigerians carried out their pre-registration but are yet to complete the process at a physical centre.”
“This represents over 67 percent of those who began their registration process online. According to INEC, a total of 12,298,944 Nigerians completed their voter registration; 8,854,566 of which were persons who did their registration entirely at a physical centre.”
“The Plaintiffs and seven million other Nigerians have already completed their registration online, that is, via INEC online portal by providing their biodata and required documents.”
“According to INEC, the process that is outstanding for the applicants to complete the registration for their PVCs is to visit INEC designated centres for their biometric to be captured.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
However INEC has debunked the claims above describing them as misleading.
INEC in a clarification Monday by Festus Okoye, a national commissioner, said “The attention of the Commission has been drawn to media reports that some seven million Nigerians who applied for online pre-registration as voters during the last nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) were denied the opportunity to complete their registration and consequently the collection of their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs). This claim is misleading.
“To set the record straight, Nigerians may recall that on 28th June 2021, the Commission introduced the online pre-registration of voters. By doing so, citizens were given the opportunity to commence the registration online and then book for an appointment at their convenience to complete the physical Biometric Capture at designated centres. It was a novel idea leveraging on technology to ease the registration process. This was in addition to the walk-in option at physical centres, where Nigerians can commence and complete thier registration simultaneously without going through the online pre-registration procedure.
“In the interest of transparency, the Commission provided weekly statistical updates on the exercise.
“For the online pre-registration, a total 10,487,972 commenced the process. However, by the deadline of the exercise, 3,444,378 Nigerians completed their pre-registration physically at the designated centres in line with the Commission’s policy. Some 7,043,594 applicants did not complete the registration. Again, the Commission made the information public. This is what some people are now using to say that they were denied the opportunity when in reality they failed to either complete the online enrolment or appear physically at the designated centres to complete the process.
“A breakdown of the 7,043,594 incomplete online pre-registrations is as follows:
“4,161,775 citizens attempted but either did not complete online pre-registration or abandoned it and went for the physical registration instead.
“2,881,819 registrants completed the online pre-registration but did not show up to complete the physical Biometric Capture at designated centres before the deadline.
“Therefore, it is clear that no Nigerians were deliberately denied the opportunity to complete their online pre-registration.”