The commission said registered voters who fail to collect their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) before the deadline would not be allowed to vote on election day.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained why electorates with temporary voters cards will not be allowed to vote on election day.
The commission said only persons with Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) will be allowed to vote because PVCs are critical to its planned accreditation process.
The electoral umpire told the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Monday that unlike in previous elections where eligible electorates who had issues with accreditation were allowed to vote after filling the Incident Form, electorates at the forthcoming election and others would only be allowed to vote after their PVCs have been duly authenticated by the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
INEC through its legal team led by Abdulaziz Sani (SAN) appealed to the court to dismiss a suit seeking to compel the commission to allow those with temporary voters card or proof of registration to vote.
The commission as gathered by this platform was responding to a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/2348/2022, filled by a non-governmental organisation, under the aegis of the Incorporated Trustees of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, with two other plaintiffs- Emmanuel Chukwuka and Bruno Okeahialam.
The plaintiffs, who alleged INEC was plotting to disenfranchise over 20 million eligible voters in the country, told the court that they filed the suit for themselves and on behalf of registered voters about to be disenfranchised by the commission in the 2023 general elections.
The Plaintiffs, through their lawyer, Max Ozoaka, argued that considering all the attacks on INEC facilities and challenges that are currently trailing the collection of PVCs across the federation, many registered voters would be denied the right to exercise their franchise.
Ozoaka, therefore argued that since the INEC had already issued temporary voters card/registration slips, persons whose PVCs were affected in the said attacks, should in the event that their voters’ cards were not reprinted and collected before the deadline, be allowed to participate in the election.
He told the court that INEC previously disclosed that the BVAS could authenticate electorates by entering of the last six digits of the Voters Identity Number, VIN.
However, in a counter-affidavit filed before the court, INEC challenged the competence of the suit, insisting that the legal action was premature, frivolous and speculative.
INEC accused the plaintiffs of failing to supply the court with particulars of the 29 million persons they claimed may be disenfranchised, giving the reason it extended the period for PVC collection was that so many fresh ones, especially in areas that were attacked, have been reproduced and ready for collection.
The electoral body told the court that it has already extended the time within which PVCs could be collected.
INEC’S lawyer submitted to the court that “My lord, it is a mysterious submission that the BVAS use last 6 digits of VIN. That is totally wrong and not true. In fact, I am hearing it for the first time. Without the PVCs, the BVAS cannot work.
“Even the election will surprise people. There are many innovations that I don’t want to divulge here.
“As far as this suit is concerned, no particulars were provided to show that any PVC was destroyed. They should have waited until the expiration of the time for collection, which is January 29, before filing this suit.”
He, therefore, appealed to the court to dismiss the suit, noting that the 1st plaintiff failed to attach its Article of Incorporation to show that it has the mandate to embark on such public interest litigation.
The plaintiffs in the suit that has INEC as the sole Defendant, are praying for the court to determine “Having regard to the clear and unambiguous relevant provision of the Electoral Act, 2022, and the true intendment of Section 47 (1) thereof, whether the defendant, can as a consequence of their own contraption, bottleneck, compromise and negligence, disenfranchise or otherwise deprive the plaintiffs and a class of persons they represent in this suit, the right and opportunity to vote in the forthcoming general election fixed for February 25 to March 12, 2023.”
Upon determination of the legal question, the plaintiffs, are praying to the court for: “A Declaration that having duly registered and been captured in the Defendant’s Register of Voters and electronic database of registered voters, the Plaintiffs and all persons they represent in this suit are entitled to exercise their right to vote in the forthcoming general elections fixed for February to March 2023.
“A Declaration that all persons who have duly registered with the Defendant as voters and whose names are contained in the Defendant’s Register of Voters and or electronic database of registered voters should not and cannot be deprived of the right and opportunity to vote in the forthcoming general election fixed for February to March 2023.
“An Order of the Honourable Court compelling the Defendant to release forthwith the Permanent Voters’ Cards of the Plaintiffs and all members of their class to enable them vote in the forthcoming general election fixed for February to March 2023.
“An Order of the Honourable Court directing the Defendant to reprint, distribute and release the Permanent Voters’ Cards of the Plaintiffs and all persons they represent in this suit or otherwise allow them to vote with their old (temporary) voters’ cards or registration slips already issued and released to them by the Defendant the affected persons having been duly registered and captured in the Defendant’s register of voters and or electronic database of registered voters.”