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Court to INEC: Remove underage persons from voter register within 90 days

Court to INEC: Remove underage persons from voter register within 90 days
December 04
14:02 2023

A federal high court in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to within 90 days, identify officials involved in the registration of underage voters across the country.

Obiora Egwuatu, the presiding judge, also ordered that the culprits be handed over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies for investigation and possible prosecution.

The judge directed the commission to expunge forthwith from its national voters’ register, the names of all the underage voters from each polling unit across the federation, as published on its website.

He further made an order compelling the commission to furnish the plaintiff with a certified true copy (CTC) of the cleaned-up national voters’ register of all the persons eligible to vote in Nigeria within 90 days.

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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.

THE SUIT

Mike Agbon, a cleric, had sued INEC in the originating summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/367/2023 filed on March 17.

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In the suit, the plaintiff, through his lawyer, Desmond Yamah, submitted that the lack of credibility in Nigeria’s electoral process has caused great distress in the political space.

Agbon said before the 2023 general election, the electoral umpire conducted Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) nationwide and displayed the national register of voters on its website between November 12, 2022 and November 25, 2022.

He said after looking through the national voter registration database, he realised that the commission registered voters who were underage, in violation of the Electoral Act, which specified the requirements for registration in detail.

The plaintiff backed his argument with compiled copies from the INEC website of the underage registered and marked it as “Exhibit A.”

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He told the court that on November 23, 2022, Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, at a national stakeholders’ forum on elections organised by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (NCSSR), assured Nigerians that the commission would clean up the register ahead of the elections.

Agbon said through his lawyer, he formally requested the commission to furnish him with the list and names of the underage and ineligible voters, but it vehemently refused and ignored the said application.

However, despite being served with court processes and hearing notices, INEC was neither represented in court nor filed any defence.

Delivering judgment on November 28, Egwuatu ruled in favour of the plaintiff.

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“As I have found earlier in this judgment, the voters registered by the defendant in Exhibit ‘A’ are underage, that is, they have not attained the age of 18 years,” he said.

“What this translates into is that the registration officers and an update officers of the defendant failed in their duties to carry out the registration of voters in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act.”

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Citing provisions of Section 120(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, he said any officer who acted in breach of his or her official duty committed an offence and would be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500, 000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.

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