SERAP, Others sue INEC over failure to extend voter registration


The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 185 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), requesting that the court "declare the electoral body's failure to extend the deadline for voter registration to allow eligible Nigerians to exercise their rights as unconstitutional, illegal, and incompatible with international standards."

INEC recently extended the deadline for political parties to hold primaries by six days, from June 3 to June 9. This is in contrast to its previous position. However, the commission failed to extend the online pre-registration period, which expired on May 30, 2022, as well as the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) period, which expired on June 30, 2022.

SERAP has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos, in suit number FHC/L/CS/1034/2022, to assess "whether the failure of INEC to extend the deadline for voter registration is not a violation of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended], the Electoral Act, and international norms."

SERAP is requesting the court to issue a "statement that INEC's inability to extend the deadline for voter registration is a breach of eligible Nigerians' rights to freely participate in their government, equality, and equal protection."

SERAP is also seeking "an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to extend voter registration by a minimum of three months and take effective measures to ensure that eligible Nigerians can vote."

According to the claim, "enforcing unrealistic voter registration deadlines while extending the time for party primaries will deny and abridge qualified voters' constitutional and international human rights."

According to SERAP, "INEC mandates should be applied in a fair, just, and non-discriminatory manner." Extending voter registration would ensure that Nigerian voters are treated fairly and equally. The future of Nigeria's democracy is at stake."

According to SERAP, "Voters are also key stakeholders in the electoral process." Fair treatment of all eligible Nigerian voters will improve the people's right to vote and participate in their governance."

"INEC must not only be independent and impartial in the exercise of its constitutional and legislative tasks but it must also be seen to be independent and impartial," according to SERAP.

SERAP further requests that the court issue an "order prohibiting INEC, its agents, privies, assignee, or any other person(s) claiming through it from discontinuing the continuous voters' registration exercise on June 30, 2022, or any other date pending the hearing and conclusion of this complaint."

According to the suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, "extending the voter registration exercise would help strengthen voter confidence in the electoral process."

"One of the most sacred rights of the people is the right to vote." The commission has a constitutional and legislative responsibility to ensure that all qualified voters' right to participate in their government is exercised effectively."

"Extending the date for party primaries without giving eligible voters adequate time and chance to register and participate in the 2023 general elections would be an unfair and discriminatory treatment of Nigerian voters, as well as a violation of other human rights."

"Extending the voter registration deadline will give additional time for eligible voters, including young people, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and those residing in IDP camps in states facing security concerns, to participate in the 2023 elections."

"Extending the voter registration deadline would be consistent with constitutional and international standards, as well as the Electoral Act." Any such extension would also have no detrimental influence on INEC's election calendar or activities."

"Building public trust in the electoral process and ensuring the integrity and legitimacy of the 2023 elections requires a public view of INEC's independence and impartiality."

"Where Nigerians have reservations about INEC's independence and impartiality, they are more likely to lose faith in the voting process, weakening democracy."

"Extending the voter registration deadline would also be justified, given reports of difficulties in the voter registration process, particularly for young people, the elderly, people with disabilities, and residents of states facing security challenges and living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps."

"Democratic elections convey the will of the people." This necessitates giving people enough time and opportunity to register to vote. Extending the voter registration deadline is critical for promoting INEC's independence and impartiality, as well as increasing public trust in the electoral process."

"Section 14(1)(c) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) states that "the participation of the people in their governance will be secured in conformity with the provisions of this Constitution."

"According to Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022, 'the registration of voters, updating and revision of the Register of Voters under this section should not cease not later than 90 days before any election covered by this Act.'"

"Similarly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance all guarantee political involvement."

"These human rights treaties also compel state parties, including Nigeria, to safeguard the independence and impartiality of national electoral authorities in charge of election management, as well as to support the creation of the essential conditions to encourage citizen involvement."

"The right of citizens to participate in their government is a fundamental component of any democratic society, and any unreasonable restriction of that freedom would strike at the heart of representative government."

The suit's hearing date has not been set.

Source: Vanguard

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