Produce officials who registered underage voters within 90 days— Court orders INEC 

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to identify officials involved in the registration of underage citizens during the continuous voters’ registration exercise in polling units across the country and handed them over to law enforcement agencies within 90 days.

The presiding judge, Justice Obiora Egwuatu, held that the officers had committed an offence by failing to comply with the Electoral Act.

“Where there is a failure to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act by any officer appointed for the purpose of the Act, such officer has committed an offence,” he said.

In the Certified True Copy of the judgment obtained on Monday by our correspondent, Egwuatu also noted that Exhibit ‘A’ being an extract from the Defendant’s website containing the names of ineligible voters by way of being underage as found by this Court means that registration officers and or update officers of the Defendant have committed infractions and thus breached the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act concerning registration of voters.

According to him, the former spokesperson of INEC admitted to the infractions in exhibits B1 and B2.

He said, “These infractions were admitted by the Defendant through her officer Festus Okoye Esq., in exhibits BI and B2 as earlier reproduced in this judgment. At the risk of being repetitive, Festus Okoye Esq. has stated in the said exhibit, “In addition, the Commission cannot rule out infractions by its registration officials in allowing these ineligible persons into the register in the first place.

“He promised that each confirmed case of infraction will be thoroughly investigated and culpable officials will be disciplined.

“It was also admitted by the Defendant in exhibit B1 that several double, multiple, and ineligible registrants have also been detected and invalidated. These include entries that fail to meet the Commission’s business rules. The Commission takes this responsibility seriously because a credible register is at the heart of electoral integrity. ”

The judge also ordered INEC to expunge forthwith from its national voters’ register the names of all the underage voters from each of the polling units across the federation published on her website as identified and compiled by the plaintiff.

Also, he ordered the commission to furnish the plaintiff with a certified true copy of the cleaned-up national voters’ register of all the persons eligible to vote in Nigeria within 90 days.

Alternatively, he ordered the electoral umpire to publish the cleaned-up national voters’ register of all the persons eligible to vote in the country on its website within 90 days from the date of the judgment.

His orders were following an original summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/367/2023 filed on March 17 by Rev. Mike Agbon through his lawyer, Desmond Yamah.

INEC was the sole defendant in the matter.

The relief sought partly read, “Whether the defendant is constitutionally, legally duty bound to conduct credible CVR in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Whether the constitution and its enabling statute bind the defendant, the Electoral Act, 2022, to act in strict compliance with the provisions of the constitution and its enabling act.

“Whether by virtue of Section 23 of the Electoral Act, 2022, it is illegal and unlawful for the defendant to have registered underaged i.e., infants and toddlers, during the CVR.”

He alleged that upon perusal of the national register of voters, he discovered that the commission registered underaged contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act (supra), which clearly described the qualification for registration.

Punch

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