A Federal High Court in Abuja has refused an application filed by four political parties seeking to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission from using electronic card readers in the coming general elections.
The parties are Alliance for Democracy, United Democratic Party, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria and Action Alliance.
The presidential and national assembly elections hold on March 28 while those of governorship and State Houses of Assembly come up April 11.
The parties filed the application through their counsel, Alex Iziyon, and two others, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN.
Mr. Iziyon told the court that the plan to use the card readers contravened provisions of the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act.
He contended that the Commission lacked the power to introduce card readers at this point since it is not specifically provided for in Nigerian laws.
Mr. Iziyon told the court that the National Assembly enacted the Electoral Act to govern the conduct of polls in the country and that while the Act is the head, the INEC is the body of the Nigeria’s electoral process.
He further contended that the body could not be important than the head.
The lawyer also said that Section 52 (1) of the Act prohibited electronic voting, saying the commission is violating the law by introducing “electronic voter’s card reader”.
“My lord, this is what brought us to this court,” Mr. Iziyon said. “INEC wants Nigerian voters to subject themselves to electronic voter card reader, an electronic component which is expressly prohibited. “Anything to do with electronic magnetic capturing properties cannot be allowed in the conduct of the election.”
Mr. Iziyon asked Justice Adeniyi Ademola to stop INEC from implementing, commencing or directing the use of card readers for the elections, pending the determination of the suit.
He also asked the court to bridge the time within which the commission would file a response in view of the nature of the case which, according to him, had a robust electoral jurisprudence.
While relying on a suit decided in 2003 by a Federal High Court in Ebonyi Division, he argued that the court nullified the local government election conducted in the state because the state Independent Election Commission used the open ballot system in conducting the conducting the election, contrary to the provision of the Electoral Act.
Mr. Iziyon therefore said the card reader could not take the place of accreditation recognised by the Act.
Mr. Ademola, in his ruling on the exparte motion, said although the case was triable, the four parties, which had legal rights, would not suffer any irreparable harm if the commission was offered the opportunity to be heard before interim orders being sought was granted.
Although the judge refused to make any interim orders against INEC on the use of card readers, he abridged the time for the electoral body to file its response.
He abridged the time to four days from the day the commission received the court papers.
Mr. Ademola adjourned the matter to March 10 to hear the substantive motion on notice.