By Olasunkanmi Akoni

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, and 185 concerned Nigerians have sued the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to extend the deadline for voter registration to allow eligible Nigerians to exercise their rights.

Against its earlier stance, INEC recently extended the deadline for the conduct of primaries by political parties by six days, from June 3 to June 9. But the commission has failed to also extend the online pre-registration which ended May 30, 2022 and the Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, ending June 30, 2022.

In the suit filed last Friday, by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, at the Federal High Court, Lagos, SERAP is asking the court to determine “whether the failure of INEC to extend the deadline for voter registration is not a violation of Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended], the Electoral Act, and international standards.”

SERAP asked the court for, “A declaration that the failure of INEC to extend the deadline for voter registration is a violation of eligible Nigerians’ rights to participate freely in their own government, equality and equal protection.”

“An order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to extend voter registration by a minimum of three months and take effective measures to ensure that eligible Nigerians are able to register to exercise their right to vote in the 2023 general elections.”

SERAP maintained that, “Voters are also critical stakeholders in the electoral process. Treating all eligible Nigerian voters fairly would advance the people’s right to vote and to participate in their own government.”

According to SERAP, “INEC must not only be independent and impartial in the exercise of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.”

SERAP also asked the court for “an order restraining INEC, its agents, privies, assigns, or any other person(s) claiming through it from discontinuing the continuous voters’ registration exercise from the 30th June 2022 or any other date pending the hearing and determination of this suit.”

The suit read in part: “Extending the voter registration exercise would also bolster voter confidence in the electoral process.”

“One of the people’s most sacred rights is the right to vote. The commission has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to ensure the effective exercise of the right of all eligible voters to participate in their own government.

“Extending the deadline for party primaries without providing adequate time and opportunity for eligible voters to register and participate in the 2023 general elections would amount to an unfair and discriminatory treatment of Nigerian voters, and violate other human rights.

“Extending the voter registration deadline would provide more time for eligible voters, including young people, the elderly, people living with disability, as well as those resident in states facing security challenges and living in IDP camps to participate in the 2023 elections,” among others.

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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