2023: Court strikes out suit compelling INEC to allow voting without PVCs

Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday, struck out a suit seeking to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), to allow the use of Temporary Voter Cards or Voter Identification Number (VIN) during the 2023 general elections.

The Incorporated Trustees of the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, Mr Emmanuel Chukwuka and Mr Bruno Okeahialam had dragged the commission to court seeking an order to compel it to allow voting without the Permanent Voter Cards, (PVCs).

Justice Nyako, in her judgement on the suit, held, that the suit of the plaintiffs was inchoate, adding BB that Section 47 (2) of the Electoral Act provides for the use of PVC in the forthcoming general election.

INEC, she said has been calling on people who had registered to come and collect their PVCs to enable them to participate in the election.

“Unless you give me a list of uncollected PVCs and a list of those who have registered but have not gotten their PVCs then I can make a decision if not it remains a dicey situation,” the judge said.

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She maintained that the suit amounted to an academic exercise since INEC had extended the date for registered voters to collect their PVCs and the exercise was still ongoing.

Justice Nyako also held that the Electoral Act provides that the commission can deploy any technological device for the conduct of the election and that INEC still had time to deploy the technological device to ensure that all eligible voters were able to vote.

She however said, she would not dismiss the suit but will only strike it out to allow the plaintiffs to refile it if they had fresh and sufficient evidence.

“If INEC finishes distributing the PVCs they have and you still have this 29 million voters you are representing who haven’t collected theirs, then bring back the suit,” the judge said.

The plaintiffs filed the suit in December last year alleging that if the court did not intervene, about 29 million registered voters would be disenfranchised in the 2023 general elections.

The plaintiffs, in their suit, asked the court to determine whether INEC could, as a consequence of its own contraption, disenfranchise or deprive Nigerians the right or opportunity to vote in the forthcoming general election.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/2022, the plaintiffs asked the court to declare that, having been duly registered, they and the people they represent should be able to vote.

Arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, Mr. Max Uzoaka prayed the court to declare that all persons who were registered with INEC as voters and whose names were contained in its voters register should not be deprived the right to vote in the election.

“Having been registered and captured in the INEC register of voters and electronic database of registered voters, we and the persons we represent in the suit are entitled to vote in the February and March general elections.”

The lawyer said that INEC’s concept of “no PVC, no vote” would deprive eligible voters whose PVCs were burnt during the attacks on INEC’s offices the opportunity to vote during the elections.

He submitted that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) was designed to read the details of registered voters without PVCs since the Voter Identification Number (VIN) was captured on INEC’s database.

Mr Abdulaziz Sani, (SAN), counsel to INEC, however, prayed the court to decline jurisdiction on the matter on the grounds that the commission had extended the deadline for collection of PVCs.

He also told the court that the plaintiff’s claim that the last six digits of the VIN could be captured by BVAS, was a mysterious submission saying he was hearing it for the first time.

Speaking to newsmen after the judgment, Ozoaka said that the judgment was not a true reflection of the justice of the case as the judge failed to address the main issue.

He said he would get in touch with his client to know the next step to take.

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