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2011: COURT LIFTS ORDER ON VOTERS REGISTRATION

By NBF News
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A Federal High Court yesterday, in Abuja, vacated its earlier order restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), from awarding contracts for the procurement and supply of the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines for the voters' registration.

Justice Ibrahim Auta vacated his order upon an application filed by council to the INEC, Mr. A. B. Mahmud, who prayed the court to vacate its earlier order to enable INEC to continue with the process of the acquisition of the machines, with which it plans to embark on the voters' registration exercise scheduled for second week of January 2011.

He told the court that the contract had already been awarded while delivery of the equipment was being expected.

In moving his application, the lawyer argued that the restraining order issued against INEC was too broad, vague, uncertain, incomprehensible and incapable of enforcement and argued that the award of contract for the DDC machines was a completed act for which no restraining order could reverse.

In addition, he told the court that the restraining order issued against his client was not rooted on any alleged legal right nor was it aimed at protecting any right.

While contending that the order seeks primarily to disrupt the forthcoming elections, Mr. Mahmud conceded that any claim based on infringement of patents or copyrights are commercial disputes and can be adequately compensated by the award of damages if established and called on the court to set aside its order.

The attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, represented by Carol Ajie, also joined in the attempt to get the court to vacate the order, as she contended that the restraining order was made against a completed act, since the DDC machines were already being expected to arrive at the INEC Headquarters any time soon.

Responding to the application to the court to vacate the order, counsel representing Beddings Nigeria Limited, Chief Asam Asam, prevailed on the court not to vacate or set aside the restraining order against INEC, which he accused of infringing on his client's patent rights.

He argued that the essence of the grant of an order of injunction was to protect the existing legal rights of a person from unlawful invasion by another. He frowned at INEC's calculated attempt to infringe on the legal rights of a Nigerian citizen and urged the court to allow the restraining order to remain, so as to protect the subject matter of the suit. He also called on the court to order for an expedited hearing of the substantive suit.

Asam also pointed out that the defendants have not shown that any grounds, as enunciated by the Supreme Court for a court to set aside its order, exists in this case and urged the court to refuse the defendants' application since the order it granted earlier was properly granted.

In his ruling, Justice Auta agreed with the electoral body and the attorney general of the federation that the 2011 election was of utmost national importance.

He, however, observed that Beddings Nigeria Limited has established with material exhibits that it owns the patent rights over the subject matter of the suit and that the electoral body did not exhibit any evidence to show otherwise. Also, the court said that the company established that it has a right, which is about to be breached, and, therefore, deserves monetary compensation if it proves its case.

The hearing of the substantive was subsequently adjourned to January 27 and 28, 2011, in line with the accelerated hearing ordered by the court.