Two Nigerians granted permission to vote using their Temporary Voter Cards, (TVC) have urged Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to obey the court order and allow them to vote in the March 18 governorship and parliamentary elections.
The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) recalls that the Federal High Court, Abuja on March 9, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to allow two Nigerians, Mr Kofoworola Olusegun and Wilson Allwell to use their TVC to vote in the governorship and houses of assembly elections.
Justice Obiora Egwuatu who delivered the judgment said the order was made on the grounds that the plaintiffs had fulfilled all necessary legal requirements to register and had been captured in INEC’s central database and manual, printed paper-based record or hard copy format of INEC’s maintained register of voters.
Briefing newsmen on Thursday in Abuja, counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr Victor Opatola wondered why in spite of the judgment, INEC was adamant in not allowing his clients to vote.
“As citizens of Nigeria and the world, we believe in the power of democracy and the importance of every voice being heard through their votes.
“Inspite of fulfilling all legal requirements, including registering to vote, my clients were denied their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC), and INEC has refused to comply with the court’s judgment which compels INEC to allow them vote using their Temporary Voter’s Card (TVC); in Kofoworola & Anor v. INEC suit no: FHC/ABJ/CS/180/2023.
Opatola said that INEC had filed an appeal against the court’s judgment to mislead the public that the judgment was no longer applicable.
“We have only just received their notice of appeal and application for stay of execution of the judgment and we have five days (starting from today) within which to reply to them and be heard in court.
“It is the law that stay of execution and filing of notice of appeal does not invalidate the existing judgement of Federal High Court in this matter.
“We will respond within time and they would have their day in court to move their motion for stay.”
He, however, held that INEC was mandated by law to comply with the subsisting judgment of court until the appellate court decided otherwise.
“It is also trite law, that the judgment of court is valid until set aside and takes effect immediately upon pronouncement by the court, and that as soon as the court makes the order, that order takes immediate effect.
“It is pure travesty of justice that INEC, the very institution charged with the responsibility of ensuring free and fair elections, has deliberately chosen to disenfranchise millions of Nigerians by refusing to issue them their permanent voter’s card.
“This is even after they have fulfilled all legal requirements and have been issued temporary voter’s cards.
“It is unacceptable that INEC, an institution that is meant to serve the people, has become an obstacle to democracy in Nigeria.
“This is not just a violation of the law, it is a violation of the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens to participate in the democratic process of freely electing their leaders.”
The plaintiffs expressed concerns that even though the right to vote was a fundamental pillar of democracy, this was was being violated.
“Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections.
“Yet, in Nigeria, we are seeing a gross violation of this right, as INEC continues to willfully disobey a court judgment and disenfranchise millions of eligible voters.
They called on the international community to condemn INEC’s actions and to stand with the people of Nigeria in demanding that it complied with the subsisting court judgment until if it was upturned as it had appealed it should.
They also called on all Nigerians who had been disenfranchised by INEC to unite in a call on INEC to obey court judgments.
“This is not just about an election; this is about the future of our democracy, we cannot allow INEC to undermine the very foundations of our society.
” We must stand together, united in our commitment to democracy, and demand that INEC respect the rule of law and the rights of Nigerian citizens.”
He said should the electoral umpire fail to obey the subsisting judgment when an appeal had not been heard, it would amount to contempt of court.