Monday, March 2, 2015 7:38 pm
Nnamdi Felix/ Abuja
A federal court in Abuja on Monday refused an application brought before it by four of Nigeria’s registered political parties, United Democratic Party, Action Alliance, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria and Alliance for Democracy, seeking a restraint of the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, from going ahead with plans to use electronic card readers in the conduct of the rescheduled general elections.
The parties which were represented by three senior advocates of Nigeria, led by Dr. Alex Iziyon, told the court that the proposed use of the electronic card reader runs contrary to the provisions of the Constitution as well as the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
The political parties are challenging the powers of the electoral body to introduce a process not specifically provided for in the statutes in it’s preparations for the rescheduled polls.
Dr. Alex Iziyon told the court that Nigeria’s National Assembly made the Electoral Act to govern the conduct of elections in Nigeria and that the head is the Electoral Act while INEC is the body and thus contended that the body cannot be more important than the head. He submitted that the Electoral Act, in section 52(1), prohibits electronic voting but that the electoral body had gone ahead to introduce electronic voter’s card reader.
“My lord, this is what brought us to this court. INEC wants Nigerian voters to subject themselves to electronic voters card reader, an electronic component which is expressly prohibited. Any thing to do with electronic magnetic capturing properties cannot be allowed in the conduct of the election”.
He 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 is allowed to file a response in view of the nature of the case which, according to the senior advocate of Nigeria, has a robust electoral jurisprudence.
Relying on a suit decided by a federal high court in Ebonyi Division in 2003, where 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 which prescribed an open ballot system and pointed out that the court went ahead to nullify that election and that the heavens did not fall. He insisted that the the card reader cannot be allowed to take the place of accreditation as prescribed by the Electoral Act.
In his ruling on the exparte motion, the trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, noted that the political parties have shown that they have legal rights and that the case is triable but observed that the parties would not suffer any irreparable harm if the electoral body is given opportunity to be heard before the interim orders being sought can be granted.
Consequently, the court declined to make any interim orders against the electoral body on the proposed use of the electronic card reader. 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 10th March.