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Promoting Good Governance.

Court Refuses to Stop INEC’s Proposed Use of Card Readers

Opposition to the use of Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, and card readers in the upcoming general elections suffered a setback as a Federal High Court in Abuja refused an application seeking to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission,  INEC, from using the electronic card readers in the conduct of the polls.

The application was filed by Alex Iziyon, Bolaji Ayorinde, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu and Adekunle Oyesanya, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, on behalf of four registered political parties – the United Democratic Party, UDP, Action Alliance, AA, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN, and Alliance for Democracy, AD.

The suit sought to challenge the powers of the electoral body, to introduce a process not specifically provided for in the statutes as it prepares to conduct the polls.

Iziyon, who argued the ex parte application, told the court that the proposed use of the card readers was contrary to the provisions of the Constitution as well as the Electoral Act.

Iziyon further argued that the National Assembly had legislated on the Electoral Act to govern the conduct of elections in Nigeria and that the “head is the Electoral Act while INEC is the body”, contending that the body could not be more important than the head.

He consequently submitted that the Electoral Act, in Section 52(1), prohibits electronic voting but the electoral body had gone ahead to introduce electronic voters’ card readers.

“My Lord, this is what brought us to this court. INEC wants Nigerian voters to subject themselves to electronic voters’ card readers, an electronic component which is expressly prohibited,” the counsel told the court.

“Anything to do with electronic magnetic capturing properties cannot be allowed in the conduct of the election,” he stated.

Iziyon urged the court to temporarily restrain the electoral body from implementing, commencing or directing the use of the card reader machine for the forthcoming election, pending the determination of the suit and further urged the court to bridge the time within which the electoral body would be allowed to file a response in view of the nature of the case which, according to him, has a robust electoral jurisprudence.

Relying on a suit decided by a Federal High Court in Ebonyi State in 2003, where the open secret ballot system was adopted by the state Independent Election Commission in the conduct of local government elections contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act, he insisted that the card readers could not be allowed to take the place of accreditation as prescribed by the Electoral Act.

The trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, ruling on the ex parte application, however, noted that though the political parties had shown that they have legal rights and that the case was triable, he held that the parties would not suffer any irreparable harm if the electoral body was given the opportunity to be heard before the interim orders being sought could be granted.

Consequently, the court declined to make any interim order against the electoral body on the proposed use of the electronic card readers.

However, it abridged the time for INEC to file its response to four days after receiving court papers on the matter.

Hearing on the substantive motion on notice was thereafter adjourned to Tuesday, March 10.

The parties are among the 16 parties that supported the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in objecting to the conduct of the elections as earlier scheduled.

They also have adopted President Goodluck Jonathan, the presidential candidate of the PDP, as their candidate.

The political parties based their prayers to the grounds that the use of card reader machine for the forthcoming elections was not in conformity with the Electoral Act and that their members across the country who have been enlightened on the accreditation procedure as contained in the Electoral Act would be disenfranchised as they are not educated on the use of card readers.

 

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