Abuja: Eminent constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, has sued the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the stoppage of the Voters’ registration exercise on July 31, 2023 and disenfranchisement of millions of eligible potential voters.
Plaintiffs in the suit, dated August 3, and filed by Benson Igbanoi Esq. at the Federal High Court Abuja, are Abubakar Sani Esq. and Mike Ozekhome SAN.
Specifically, by the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1335/22, the plaintiffs are praying for a mandatory injunction compelling INEC to forthwith, extend the continuous voters’ registration till November 27, 2022, which is 90 days to the 2023 general election as provided by sections 9(6), 10(1), and 12(1) of the Electoral Act 2022..
The Plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that INEC cannot purport to terminate the continuous voters’ registration exercise on July 31, 2022, more than 6 months before the general election scheduled to hold on February 25, 2023, as doing so would disenfranchise millions of eligible potential voters (including the 2nd Plaintiff).
They want a declaration that the stoppage of the continuous voters’ registration by INEC on July 31, 2022, which is more than 6 months before the 2023 general elections, contrary to the provisions of section 77(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as altered), sections 9(6), 10(1), and 12(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, and Article 13(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right, (Ratification & Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9 LEN, 2004, is, therefore, ultra vires, invalid, null and void.
In addition, Ozekhome and his co-plaintiff are seeking a declaration that having regard to the provisions of section 77(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as altered), section 12(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 and Article 13(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right, (Ratification & Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9 LEN, 2004, Defendant (INEC) cannot refuse or decline to register any eligible citizen of Nigeria that has attained the age of 18 years, who presents and or intends to present himself to Defendant for registration before 90 days to the general elections.
“A declaration that Defendant can only stop the continuous registration of voters 90 days before the next general elections
scheduled to hold on 25th February 2023, (ie, on or before the 27th day of November 2022).
“A declaration that the stoppage of the continuous voters’ registration by Defendant on the 31st of July, 2022, amounts to the disenfranchisement of citizens who have attained or will attain the age of 18 years before November 28, 2022, being 90 days to the date of the 2023 general elections.
In an affidavit in support of the suit,
Abubakar Sani stated he had the consent and authority of the 1st Plaintiff (Ozekhome) to depose the affidavit on his behalf.
The deponent averred that the unilateral cessation of the continuous voters’ registration by INEC on July 31, 2022, without recourse to the provisions of the Electoral Act tantamounts “to executive lawlessness and constitutional infraction”.
Sani stated that the said stoppage of the continuous voters’ registration by INEC affected him personally and other Nigerians because he is yet to register to vote in the forthcoming general election, even after visiting many registration centres without success.
He said, before 31st July 2022, he visited several continuous voters’ registration centres in Abuja to register without success due to the overwhelming crowd daily seeking to be registered; stressing that many of the potential voters pleaded with him to challenge Defendant’s decision to halt further registration of voters.
“That I know as a fact that the cessation of the continuous voters’ registration has disenfranchised me and above mentioned other eligible citizens and several other citizens who shall attain 18 years before November 27, 2022, which is exactly 90 days to the next general election scheduled to hold on February 25, 2023.
“That Chief Ozekhome has a large clientele across Nigeria, many of whom have inundated him with calls and messages to express their concerns about the cessation of the continuous voters’ registration by the Defendant on 31st July 2022.
“As a result of the stoppage, they have been disenfranchised from participating in the forthcoming general elections because INEC has not yet captured them in its voters’ register.
“That the cessation by Defendant has disenfranchised most of his clients, and citizens who are eligible to vote and those who shall attain the age of 18 before November 27, 2022.
“That several Nigerians who have attained the age of 18 years have been disenfranchised by the stoppage of the continuous voters’ registration on July 31, 2022, by INEC, are lamenting and protesting their disenfranchisement.
No date has been fixed for the suit.