Court rejects application stopping INEC from using card reader
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday rejected an application for an order stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission from using the electronic card readers in the forthcoming general elections.
The application, an ex parte, was filed by four political parties - the United Democratic Party, Action Alliance, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria and Alliance for Democracy.
A similar suit challenging the exclusive use of the Permanent Voter Cards and the card reader is pending before Justice Abdulkadir Abdul-kafarati of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola, in his ruling on Monday on the application filed on behalf of the political parties by four Senior Advocates of Nigeria, held that INEC deserved to be heard before making a pronouncement on their prayers.
He noted that the political parties had shown that they had legal rights to institute the action and that the case was one that could be litigated on, but he insisted that he could not grant the interim orders sought by the applicants without first hearing from INEC.
But the court ordered INEC to file its defence within four days of receiving the court papers.
It fixed hearing of the substantive suit for March 10.
The application was argued on behalf of the plaintiffs on Monday by Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), who led three other SANs - Bolaji Ayorinde, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu and Adekunle Oyesanya - in filing the main suit.
The plaintiffs had argued on Monday that the use of the electronic card reader was contrary to the provisions of the Constitution as well as the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
The plaintiffs are challenging the powers of the electoral body to introduce a process not specifically provided for in the statutes ahead of preparations for the rescheduled polls.
Izinyon maintained that the proposed use of the electronic card readers is in breach of the provisions of section 52(1) of the Electoral Act which he argued prohibits electronic voting.
He said, 'My lord, this is what brought us to this court. INEC wants Nigerian voters to subject themselves to electronic voter card reader, an electronic component which is expressly prohibited.
'Anything 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.'
He further urged the court to bridge the time within which the electoral body would be allowed to file a response in view of the nature of the case which, according to him, has a robust electoral jurisprudence.
He cited a decision of a Federal High Court in Ebonyi Division in 2003, when the 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.
He pointed out that the court went ahead to nullify that election and that 'the heavens did not fall.'
He insisted that the card reader could not be allowed to take the place of accreditation as prescribed by the Electoral Act.
The parties are among the 16 parties that supported the Peoples Democratic Party in objecting to the conduct of the elections as earlier scheduled. They have also adopted President Jonathan (the presidential candidate of the PDP) as their candidate.
They hinged their prayers on the grounds that, the INEC published in January 2015 Manual for Election Officials 2015 and INEC Approved Guidelines and Regulations for the conduct of the 2015 general elections, to help election officials learn all aspects of polling to enable them to face the challenge and answer questions that may arise on the day of election.
They noted that sometime in January 2015 INEC made its intention known to all registered political parties and registered voters to use the card reader for the election.
The parties argued that the use of card reader Machine for the forthcoming election was not in conformity with the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and that their members across the country who had been enlightened on the accreditation procedure as contained in the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) would be disenfranchised as they were not educated on the use of Card Reader