ABUJA—The Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), yesterday, persuaded the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to join him as a defendant in the suit seeking to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to make use of both the permanent and temporary voter cards for the forthcoming general elections.
Equally joined as co-defendants in the suit which was filed by a civil society group under the aegis of Society for Advancement and Protection of Public Rights, SAPPR , yesterday, were the APC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Incorporated Trustees of Fiscal & Civil Right Enlightenment Foundation.
Though it was only Buhari and the APC that initially applied to be joined in the suit, at the resumed sitting yesterday, the PDP through its lawyer Mr. I. A. Adeoke, SAN, urged the court to allow it to enter into the matter as a party.
Even though counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Osita Nnadi, SAN, told the court that Buhari did not serve him with a copy of his own joinder- application , however, he said he would not oppose any of the applications.
Meantime, Buhari who was represented yesterday by six Senior Advocates of Nigeria and 42 other lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, agreed to serve the plaintiff with his application right inside the court room.
Delivering a short ruling on the applications, Justice Abdul Kafarati granted all the applications and joined Buhari, APC, PDP and the Incorporated Trustees of Fiscal & Civil Right Enlightenment Foundation, as the 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants, even as he adjourned the matter till March 18 for mention.
Besides, Justice Kafarati ordered the plaintiff to amend its processes to reflect the names of the new defendants.
It will be recalled that the plaintiff had originally cited the INEC and the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, as 1st and 2nd defendants in the matter.
Specifically, the plaintiff is seeking a declaration that by virtue of sections 77(2) and 117(2) of the Constitution, INEC, has no power to deprive any Nigerian who is eligible to vote at the election, the chance to vote on the ground of non possession of the PVC.
It is urging the court to order INEC to allow the use of the temporary voter cards issued legally to Nigerians in 2011 along with the permanent voter cards in order not to disenfranchise over 20 millions electorates yet to access their permanent cards.
It maintained that the use of both cards would enable all eligible Nigerians to vote in the election and thus make the process more free, fair and credible.
The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/06/15 is also seeking for an order of court to compel INEC to allow anyone with a voters’ card, either temporary or permanent, to vote, as long as it was duly issued by the electoral body.
To do otherwise, the group said would amount to dis-enfranchising millions of Nigerians, saying there was no law that empowered INEC to insist on PVC as the only acceptable card for voting.
On the contrary, the group argued that by refusing to allow people with temporary voter cards to vote, INEC is violating sections 77(2) and 117(2) of the Constitution.
It therefore prayed the court to declare that any provision of the Electoral Act 2010 or the Electoral Guidelines issued by INEC which prescribe the use of a card reader machine for screening of voters card or which has the effect of preventing a registered voter to vote, is beyond the powers of the electoral body and therefore unconstitutional.