Justice Obiora Egwuatu of a Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to allow eligible voters with the Temporary Voter Cards (TVC) participate in the March 18 governorship and state houses of assembly elections but INEC last night vowed to appeal against court order.
The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmim, said the commission was taking necessary steps to vacate the order. Oyekanmi confirmed that INEC had been served with the court order.
“INEC has been served a copy of the judgement delivered today by the Federal High Court, Abuja Division which ordered it to allow two Plaintiffs to vote with their Temporary Voter’s Card (TVC).
“The Commission is taking immediate steps to appeal against the judgement of the trial court.”This was just as the Commission yesterday, said the insinuations that the redeployment of its former Director of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), Chidi Nwafor, was partly responsible for the technical glitches experienced during the presidential and National Assembly polls held on February 25, was nothing but an attempt to mislead the public.
On same day, the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) expressed support for the rescheduling of the governorship and state assembly elections from Saturday, March 11 to March 18, 2023 by the Independent National Electoral Commission.The electoral body had on Thursday, announced the postponement of the governorship and states’ Houses of Assembly elections to March 18.INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Voter Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, in a statement, had said the decision to postpone the polls was made to ensure adequate time to back up data stored on the over 176,000 BVAS machines from the presidential and National Assembly elections and, then, reconfigure the machines for the governorship and House of Assembly elections.
Justice Egwuatu made the order to allow eligible voters with TVCs participate in the elections while delivering judgment in a suit filed by two aggrieved Nigerians seeking the use of TVCs in the general elections in the absence of the Permanent Voter Cards, (PVCs).The judge predicated the order on the grounds that the plaintiffs were duly registered and captured in INEC’s database. “An order is made compelling the defendant (INEC) to allow the plaintiffs to vote using their TVCs 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) 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,” the judge said.Justice Egwuatu however, stated that he was unable to grant the third prayer of the plaintiffs which sought to allow every eligible voter with a TVC to vote because the suit was not filed in a representative capacity.
“This suit having not been brought in a representative capacity, I find myself unable to grant any relief pursuant to prayer three of the plaintiffs’ application.”The court held that there was no portion of the law, both in the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act that states that it was only PVCs that could be used, but that the law under Section 47 provided for a voter’s card.
Speaking to newsmen, counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr. Victor Opatola said the judgment was a win for all Nigerians who suffered to get registered to vote, were duly registered but due to no fault of theirs could not get their PVCs before the election.According to Opatola, since my clients had fulfilled all necessary requirements by law but were not issued their PVCs until the time for collection of PVCs was over, they should not be allowed to suffer.
The lawyer also said that it was the law of equity 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, then by law of equity, it should also apply to all Nigerians who have fulfilled all necessary requirements and were issued TVCs by INEC.”He maintained that this should be so because the content of the TVC was the same as the content of the PVC and the only difference was the plastic used for the PVC.
INEC had repeatedly held that only eligible voters with the PVCs would be allowed to vote in the 2023 presidential, governorship and parliamentary elections.However, the plaintiffs, Kofoworola Olusegun and Wilson Allwell in the suit filed on February 8 and marked FHC/ABJ/CS/180/2023, had 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.”Besides they prayed for, “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.
Also, INEC has said the insinuations that the redeployment of its former Director of ICT was partly responsible for the technical glitches experienced during the polls held on February 25, was an attempt to mislead the public.Oyekanmi, while reacting to a media report alleging that the redeployment of the ICT director was partly responsible for the technical glitches insisted that BVAS performed its duty excellently on the election day.He explained that BVAS cannot be described as an invention of one staff member of INEC, rather, it was the Commission’s idea and invention, just as the now rested Smart Card Reader (SCR).
Oyekanmi said having decided to invent the BVAS, the Commission gave the assignment to the most relevant Department within the Commission, which was the ICT to bring the idea into fruition.He added that the ICT Department was populated by a sizable number of brilliant Engineers and IT experts, who worked very hard as a team for several months to successfully actualize the Commission’s dream, saying after completing the assignment of designing the BVAS, the ICT Department notified the Commission.The chief press secretary said, therefore, it was improper to insinuate that a former Director of ICT or any other staff for that matter single-handedly designed the BVAS.
He stressed that anyone was to be praised for the invention, it would be the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, because the buck stops on his table and the Commission that conceived the innovation in the first place.Oyekanmi said, “At the same time, to insinuate that the transfer of a former Director of ICT to another State as Administrative Secretary was both a demotion and the cause of the glitches experienced with the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) in the afternoon of 25th February 2023 during the Presidential election is nothing but an attempt to mislead the public.”
He emphasised that IReV and BVAS are two separate entities, and they are independent of each other.He said the relationship between the two was that the BVAS was used to transmit the picture of Form EC8A, which was the Polling Unit Result Sheet in PDF format, as well as the Voters’ Accreditation Data to the IREV.According to him, “therefore, the glitches suffered by the IReV for some hours on 25th February could not have affected the functionality of the BVAS, which in any case, performed its duty excellently on election day.
“There’s also a provision for the BVAS to transmit the PU result in the offline mode if there is no network at the polling unit at time of the activity.”Oyekanmi was of the opinion that the glitches could still have occurred even if the former ICT Director was still in charge.He said: “Recently, Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter had serious glitches that prevented many people including me from using those applications for many hours.
“But eventually, the respective companies surmounted the challenges. Now, would you say that the glitches occurred just because one Engineer resigned from or was transferred within the company? Of course not.”Oyekanmi noted that while the former ICT Director was indeed a respected, brilliant employee who played his role satisfactorily, there are equally other staff members within the Commission that can effectively play his former role.
He said contrary to the impression the position of Administrative Secretary was a demotion, it was an elevation.Oyekanmi said the Administrative Secretary at the State office was the most senior staff there, second only to the Resident Electoral Commissioner, stressing that when the REC is not around, the Administrative Secretary becomes an Acting REC.
IPAC Backs INEC’s Postponement of Governorship, State Assembly Election
Meanwhile, IPAC has expressed support for the rescheduling of the governorship and state Assembly elections to March 18, 2023 by INEC.It however charged the commission not to allow a repeat of the glitches witnessed during the disputed presidential and National Assembly poll by ensuring that BVAS will function properly and results upload to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) in real time.Addressing journalists in Abuja, at end of the council’s meeting, IPAC national chairman, Mr. Yagbagi Yusuf, said the extension INEC asked for would provide enough opportunity to enable it put its house in order and deliver credible elections next time, adding that any attempt to manipulate the upcoming elections must be resisted.Yagbagi said IPAC was urging all stakeholders in the electoral process, “to please bear with the commission as it puts its act together for the March 18,2023 Governorship and State House of Assembly elections.”He said with the assurance that BVAS would function properly and results upload to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) in real time, Nigerians and the international community expected free, fair, credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful gubernatorial and legislative elections.“The commission should this time justify the confidence Nigerians reposed in it and improve on its performance in the disputed presidential and National Assembly polls.
“Council urges security agents to sit up and be alive to their constitutional mandate to secure lives and property before, during and after elections so as to avert the violence and other security breach witnessed during the presidential election.“Council further urges Nigerians to come out en masse and vote for their preferred political parties, and ensure their votes count in the overall results. The ballot is sacrosanct, the will and mandate of the people freely given to a political party must be respected.“This is the beauty of election and representative governance. Any attempt to manipulate the upcoming elections must be resisted. The era of vote-buying and other irregularities that marred previous polls is over,” he said.
While urging the electorate to come out en masse on March 18th, to vote for candidates of their choice, IPAC said the nation must get it right this time if it’s quest for sustainable democracy, rule of law and good governance was to be taken serious.“This is a trying period for our dear nation and calls for prayers, understanding and patriotism as we collectively consolidate our emerging democracy, reaffirm our faith in the fatherland and choose competent, resourceful and visionary governors and state legislators in the upcoming elections.
“The tasks ahead are enormous but surmountable if we join hands in unity and tenacity of purpose to build a better and greater Nigeria.“It is time for us to demonstrate that democracy has come to stay in Nigeria and show the world that we are lovers of constitutional rule, good governance, due process and rule of law. Periodic election is critical for sustainable democracy as power resides in the people,” Yusuf saidWhile x-raying February 25th presidential and National Assembly elections, the IPAC chairman said it is a welcome development that some political parties and their candidates who disagreed with the results declared by the electoral umpire had gone to the court to challenge them rather than seeking solutions outside the law.
“Some political parties and their candidates disagreed with the results declared by the electoral umpire and challenged them in court, particularly the presidential election which is the appropriate thing to do and in line with the IPAC plea that all aggrieved political parties and their candidates should approach the court for redress and urged the court to adjudicate on the cases on merit to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to have been done.“IPAC reaffirms its confidence in the Judiciary and hopes that substantial justice will be done in all cases before it,” he said.