A Federal High Court in Abuja has refused to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to resume the continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise.
Inyang Ekwo, the presiding judge, said although the exercise ought to last until 90 days before the 2023 general election, the registration exercise cannot be reopened considering the limited time frame.
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In June 2021, the commission launched a portal where Nigerians can register or request to update their voter information before they complete the process physically at designated centres.
INEC had earlier fixed June 30 as the deadline for the CVR ahead of the 2023 elections.
But a federal high court in Abuja had stopped the commission from ending the exercise, following a suit filed against the electoral umpire by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 185 persons.
The commission consequently extended the voter registration till July 31.
However, in a fresh suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1343/2022 filed by one Anajat Salmat and three others, the plaintiffs argued that INEC cannot stop the CVR exercise before the time stipulated by law.
The plaintiffs had sought three reliefs — a declaration that INEC, by law, is expected to continue voter registration until 90 days before the general polls; a declaration that INEC is constitutionally required to ensure that all eligible voters participate in the 2023 elections; as well as a court order compelling INEC to resume the CVR exercise “immediately” until at least 90 days before the general election.
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In the judgment delivered on Tuesday, Ekwo agreed with the plaintiffs that the electoral umpire ought not to have deprived citizens of the opportunity to register to vote during the forthcoming polls.
INEC, the judge said;
Is expected, pursuant to the provisions of sections 76(2), 77(2), 116(2), 117(2), 132(2) and (5), 178(2) and (5) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as well as sections 9(1), 9(6), 10(1) and 12(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 to continue voter registration, update and review the voters’ register until 90 days before the general election.
The judge, however, added that;
This court is unable to grant relief number three of the plaintiffs, because going by the date of this judgment, from the date of this judgment, the defendant will have just a few days away from 90 days before the general election of February 25, 2023, and March 11 2023.