2015: Court asked to stop conduct of elections over N17.3bn judgement debt

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BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI

ABUJAThe Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has fixed April 30 to begin hearing on a suit seeking to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from conducting general elections in 2015, following its inability to pay N17.3billion judgement debt

The high court had in a judgement on January 28, ordered the electoral body to pay the said sum to an indigenous company, Bedding Holdings Limited, BHL, for infringing on its patent rights

The court said it was satisfied that INEC and its Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, used Direct Data Capturing, DDC, machines for voters’ registration exercise, without first securing the consent of the company which owns the patent right for usage of such machines in Nigeria.

The court directed INEC to ensure that it not only paid damages to the company, but to also seek consent before employing the machines in future elections.

Meantime, sequel to the inability of INEC to pay the damages, the company, in a fresh suit, is praying the court to stop the Commission from conducting any election in the country pending when it is able to offset the judgement debt.

Consequently, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta who is presiding over the matter, has ordered the service of the suit on both INEC and Jega.

The court also ordered the plaintiff to serve the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, with a copy of the suit.

The plaintiff is contending that the defendants, cannot without complying with the high court judgement of January 28, 2014, utilise its patented process of applying the DDC machines for voters’ registration, in either the conduct of governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states or for the 2015 general elections.

BHL told the court that INEC had not only declined to comply with the judgement, but had commenced the deployment of its patented process for voter’s registration as part of preparation for the governorship elections in Ekiti, Osun and next year’s general elections.

It wants the court to determine, among other things, whether by the combined interpretation of the provisions of sections 2, 3(3), 19,25 and 26 of the Patent and Design Act 2004 and the subsisting judgement of January 28, 2014 the defendants could employ its patented process for its  continuous voters’ registration exercise without the plaintiff’s prior consent.

The plaintiff seeks an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants and their agents from further infringing on its patent rights by embarking on the voter’s registration or production of voters’ register in preparation for future elections without first obtaining it’s consent.

It also seeks an order nullifying the voters’ register produced by the defendants, using its patented process, without its consent.

BHL wants the court to declare that the continuous voters’ registration exercise being carried out by INEC in preparation for future elections, without its prior consent, amounts to an infringement on its patent rights.

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