ABUJA — The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, declined to issue an ex-parte order stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from deploying Card Reader Machines, CRM, for the conduct of the forthcoming general elections.
Instead of granting the ex-parte motion which was filed by four political parties—United Democratic Party (UDP), Action Alliance (AA), Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and Alliance for Democracy (AD)— Justice Ademola Adeniyi ordered the plaintiffs to put INEC on notice to enable it appear in court on March 10 to enter its arguments for or against the substantive suit.
Even though Justice Adeniyi observed that the plaintiffs had through their team of lawyers, comprising three Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, led by Dr. Alex Iziyon, fulfilled all condition precedents and made out case to warrant the grant of their motion, he said the tenets of justice would be better served if all the parties are allowed to fully address the court on the matter.
“There is no loss that the plaintiffs will suffer if the defendant (INEC) is given the chance to respond to the issues raised. This court feels that it is fair that the defendant be given the opportunity to be heard,”Adeniyi ruled.
Nevertheless, the court granted an order for the abridgment of time within which INEC which is the sole defendant in the suit, could respond to the case, even as it also okayed an accelerated hearing of the matter.
The electoral body was directed to within four days of receiving the relevant copies of the processes that were filed by the plaintiffs, file its defence.
The plaintiffs’ prayers
Specifically, the plaintiffs are, among other things, seeking an interim order restraining INEC from proceeding with arrangement and plan to use the CRM for the impending elections.
They are praying the court for “an order of interim injunction restraining the defendant, its agents, servants, privies or assigns, by whatever name, from implementing or commencing or further implementing or further commencing or directing or further directing the use and preparation of the Card Reader Machine or any name of like nature, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”
Arguing through their lawyer, the plaintiffs maintained that the decision of INEC to deploy card readers for the election was a violation of the provision of Section 52(1) (2) which prohibits the use of any electronic method of voting in the country.
Iziyon further contended that the deployment of card reader for voters’ verification could pass as electronic voting.
They hinged their prayers on the grounds that INEC had earlier published a Manual for Election Officials 2015 and its Approved Guidelines and Regulations for the conduct of the 2015 general elections, to help election officials to learn all aspects of polling to enable them 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 card readers for the election.
The plaintiff insisted that the use of card reader machine for the forthcoming election is not in conformity with the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and that their members across the country who have 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 the card reader.