The Abuja division of the Federal High Court, has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow the use of Temporary Voter Cards (TVC) in the rescheduled governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections fixed for March 18.
The ruling, yesterday, has created anxiety and confusion among political parties and candidates for the polls, especially with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) describing the ruling as contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2033 (as amended), which provides that only voters with Permanent Voter Cards, (PVCs) should be allowed to vote in the elections.
There were fears that should INEC head to court to appeal the ruling, the ensuing litigation could lead to further shift in the date of the governorship and assembly polls.
Plaintiffs in the case, Kofoworola Olusegun and Wilson Allwell had in the suit filed before the court, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/180/2023, challenged the position of INEC and asked the court to determine “Whether by the true construction and interpretation of section 10(2), 12(1) and 47 of the Electoral Act 2022; Section 77(2) and 132(5) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), and bearing in mind that the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machine introduced by INEC only needs the thumbprint and/or facial recognition to accredit a voter.”
The plaintiffs equally sought the determination of the question as to “whether a person whose name appears in the electronic format in INEC's central database and manual, printed paper based record or hard copy format of the register of voters and has been assigned a Voter's Identification Number (VIN), can be said to be entitled to be accredited to vote with his/her TVC in the general election to be conducted by the defendant.”
They also sought the determination as to “whether such a person can, as a consequence of the defendant's inabilities, actions and omission be disenfranchised of the right and entitlement to vote in the 2023 general election.”
Delivering judgment on the suit, yesterday, Justice Obiora Egwuatu said his ruling was based on the fact that the plaintiffs were duly registered and captured in INEC's database.
The judge made an order “compelling the defendant (INEC) to allow the plaintiffs to vote using their Temporary Voter Cards issued by the defendant, the plaintiffs having been duly captured in the National Register of Voter's database.”
He further declared that “the plaintiffs, having fulfilled all necessary legal requirements to register and having consequently been captured in the defendant's (INEC's) central database and manual, printed paper-based record or hard copy format of the defendant's maintained Register of Voters, the plaintiffs are entitled to vote using their Temporary Voter Cards in the forthcoming 2023 General Election.”
However, Justice Egwuatu said he was unable to grant prayer three which was to allow every eligible voter with a TVC to vote because the suit was not filed in a representative capacity.
The court held that there was no portion of the law, both the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act that states that it is only PVCs that could be used, but that the law under Section 47 provided for a voter's card.
However, INEC, said it had not received the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the court order mandating it to allow registered voters with TVCs to participate in the March 18 governorship and state Assemblies elections.
The commission said the order was against the Electoral Act.