On Thursday, the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to allow the use of temporary voter cards (TVC) in the March 18 governorship and state house of assembly elections.
In the absence of permanent voter cards, two dissatisfied Nigerians filed a lawsuit seeking the use of temporary voter cards in general elections.
In the suit filed on February 8 and marked FHC/ABJ/CS/180/2023, the plaintiffs, Kofoworola Olusegun and Wilson Allwell, challenged INEC’s position and asked the court to determine “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 can be said to be entitled to be accredited to vote.
The plaintiffs also asked the court to rule on whether such a person can be denied the right and entitlement to vote in the 2023 general election as a result of INEC’s liabilities and omissions.
As a result, they prayed for the following benefits if the questions were answered in their favor:
They asked for “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, the plaintiffs are entitled to vote using their TVC in the 2023 General Elections.”
The court ruled that there was no section of the law, both the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act, that stated that only PVCs could be used, but that Section 47 of the law provided for a voter’s card.
Justice Egwuatu said that the order was given because the plaintiffs were properly registered and their information was in INEC’s database.
“An order is made compelling the defendant to allow the plaintiffs to vote using their temporary voter cards issued by the defendant, the plaintiffs being duly captured in the National Register of Voters database,” he ruled.
The judge further held that the plaintiffs are entitled to vote using their TVC in the forthcoming 2023 general election, “having fulfilled all necessary legal requirements to register and having consequently been captured in INEC’s central database and manual, printed paper-based record or hard copy format.But prayer 3, which asked that all eligible voters with a TVC be able to vote, was turned down.
“Any other order that the court may deem fit for all other Nigerians who, like the plaintiffs, have not received their permanent voter’s card, as the court may deem fit.”
The judge ruled that the suit was not filed in the capacity of a representative.
“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 stated.
Victor Opatola, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that the decision was a win for all Nigerians who struggled to get registered to vote, were properly registered, but could not get their PVCs before the election for no fault of their own.
He said, “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 stated that equity dictated that what applied to the goose should also apply to the gander.
“So, if the court says that these two people who have met all of the requirements can vote with their TVCs, then by the law of equity, it should also apply to all Nigerians who have met all of the requirements and were issued TVCs by INEC.”
Furthermore, he claimed that the TVC contained the same content as the PVC, with the only difference being the plastic used for the PVC.