Court: INEC Must Not End Voters Registration


Court: INEC Must Not End Voters Registration

The Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled that the Independent National Electoral Commission must not end voter registration on June 30, 2022.

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

SERAP and 185 concerned Nigerians filed the lawsuit against INEC earlier this month, asking the court to "declare unconstitutional, illegal, and incompatible with international standards the electoral body's failure to extend the deadline for voter registration to allow eligible Nigerians to exercise their rights."

SERAP 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 on June 30, 2022, or any other date pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice."

The case has been rescheduled for the 29th of June, 2022, for the hearing of the Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction.

The suit was filed in response to INEC's decision to extend the deadline for political parties to hold primaries by six days, from June 3 to June 9. However, the commission did not extend the online pre-registration period, which ended on May 30, 2022, or the Continuous Voter Registration period, which ended on June 30, 2022.

SERAP is asking the court to determine "whether the failure of INEC to extend the deadline for voter registration is not a violation of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended], the Electoral Act, and international standards" in the suit number FHC/L/CS/1034/2022 filed at the Federal High Court in Lagos and transferred to Abuja.

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

SERAP also requested a "mandamus order 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."

The suit stated, in part, that "enforcing unrealistic voter registration deadlines while extending the deadline for party primaries would deny and abridge eligible voters' constitutional and international human rights."

"INEC mandates must be carried out in a fair, just, and non-discriminatory manner." Extending voter registration would ensure that Nigerian voters are treated fairly and equally. It is critical to the future of Nigeria's democracy.

"Voters are also important participants in the electoral process." Fair treatment of all eligible Nigerian voters would advance the people's right to vote and participate in their own government.

"INEC must not only be independent and impartial in carrying out its constitutional and statutory duties, but it must also be perceived to be independent and impartial."

"Extending the voter registration period would also increase voter trust in the electoral process."

"One of the most sacred rights of the people is the right to vote." The commission has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to ensure that all eligible voters' right to participate in their own government is exercised effectively.

"Extending the deadline for party primaries without giving eligible voters adequate time and opportunity to register and participate in the 2023 general elections would be an unfair and discriminatory treatment of Nigerian voters, as well as a violation of other human rights."

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

"Extending the voter registration deadline would be entirely consistent with constitutional and international standards, as well as the Electoral Act." Any such extension would also have no negative impact on INEC's election calendar or activities.

"Building public trust in the electoral process and ensuring the credibility and legitimacy of the 2023 elections requires a public perception of INEC's independence and impartiality."

"Where Nigerians have doubts about INEC's independence and impartiality, they are more likely to lose faith in the electoral process, undermining democracy."

"Extending the voter registration deadline would also be justified, given reports of difficulties in the voter registration process, particularly for young people, the elderly, people with disabilities, and residents of states facing security challenges and living in internally displaced persons camps."

"Democratic elections express the will of the people." This necessitates giving people enough time and opportunity to register to vote. Extending the voter registration deadline is critical for promoting INEC's independence and impartiality, as well as increasing public trust in the electoral process.

"Section 14(1)(c) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) states that "the participation of the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution."

"Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022 states that "the registration of voters, updating, and revision of the Register of Voters under this section shall not cease not later than 90 days before 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 all guarantee political participation."

"These human rights treaties also require states parties, including Nigeria, to ensure the independence and impartiality of national electoral bodies responsible for election management, as well as to promote the creation of the conditions necessary to encourage citizen participation."

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

Voters Registration Must Continue, Court to INEC

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