Court Orders INEC to Permit the Use of Temporary Voter Cards in the March 18 Election

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By Habib Sani Galadima



The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to allow the use of Temporary Voter Cards, TVC, in the March 18 governorship and state house of assembly elections.

The decision was made by Justice Obiora Egwuatu in a lawsuit brought by two Nigerians who felt they had been wronged and wanted to use TVCs in the general elections in the absence of permanent voter cards (PVCs).

Justice Egwuatu said that the order was made because the plaintiffs were properly registered and their information was in INEC’s database.

“An order is made 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.

“A declaration is made by this court 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, are entitled to vote using their Temporary Voter Cards in the  forthcoming 2023 General Election,” the judge said.

However, the judge stated that because the lawsuit was not brought in a representative capacity, he was unable to grant prayer number three, which called for allowing every eligible voter with a TVC to cast a ballot.

“This suit having not been brought in a representative capacity, I find myself unable to grant any relief pursuant to prayer three of the plaintiff’s application.”

The court ruled that no part of the law—including the Electoral Act of 1999 and the 1999 Constitution—states that only PVCs may be used, and that instead, Section 47 of the law allows for the use of a voter’s card.

Victor Opatola, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told reporters that the decision was a victory for all Nigerians who struggled to register to vote and were legitimately registered but, for no fault of their own, were unable to obtain their PVCs prior to the election.

Mr. Opatola said that my clients shouldn’t have to suffer because they met all of the legal requirements but didn’t get their PVCs until after the time for getting them had passed.

According to equity law, the attorney further claimed that what applied to the goose should also apply to the gander.

“So what the court is saying is that these two people who have fulfilled all necessary requirements can vote with their TVCs, and by the law of equity, that should also apply to all Nigerians who have fulfilled all necessary requirements and were issued TVCs by INEC.”

He insisted that this should be the case because the PVC’s plastic is the only difference between its content, which is the same as that of the TVC.

In the absence of an appeal, the judgment is now final and enforceable.

Only eligible voters with PVCs would be permitted to cast ballots in the 2023 presidential, governorship, and parliamentary elections, according to a repeated declaration by INEC.

However, the plaintiffs, Kofoworola Olusegun and Wilson Allwell, in the lawsuit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/180/2023 filed on February 8 challenged INEC’s position and requested that the court determine “Whether by the true construction and interpretation of sections 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;

“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.

“Whether such a person can, as a consequence of the defendant’s inabilities, actions and omissions, be disenfranchised of the right and entitlement to vote in the 2023 general election.

If the questions were to be answered in their favor, the plaintiffs requested that the court grant them the following reliefs.

“A declaration that the plaintiff, having fulfilled all necessary legal requirements to register and having consequently been captured in its central database and manual, printed paper-based record or hard copy format of INEC’s maintained register of voters, is entitled to vote using their TVC in the 2023 General Elections.

“An order compelling INEC to allow the plaintiff to vote using the TVC issued by INEC, the plaintiff having been duly captured in the national register of voter’s database.

“Any other order, the court may deem fit for all other Nigerians who are like the plaintiffs and have not gotten their permanent voter’s card, as the court may deem fit.”

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