Underage voters: Court orders INEC officials’ arrest, register clean-up

Underage voters: Court orders INEC officials’ arrest, register clean-up

 

The Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to fish out its officials involved in the registration of underage persons during the continuous voters’ registration exercise across the country.

The judge gave INEC 90 days to identify the culpable officials and hand them over to law enforcement agencies.

Justice Obiora Egwuatu held that the officers committed a criminal offence by breaching the Electoral Act.

“Where there is a failure to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act by any officer appointed for the purpose of the Act, such an officer has committed an of fence,” the judge held.

The judge issued “a mandatory order of this honourable court compelling and directing the defendant to forthwith, within a period of one month or such other period which shall not exceed 90 days from the date of this judgment, to identify, produce and hand over its officials that were involved in the registration of the underage in each Polling Unit across the federation for investigation and prosecution by the appropriate law enforcement agency.”

Justice Egwuatu made the pronouncement in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/367/2023 filed by one Rev Mike Agbon against INEC.

Our correspondent obtained a copy of the judgment delivered on November 28 on Monday.

In the judgment, the judge said a former spokesman for INEC, Festus Okoye, had admitted to the infractions in Exhibits B1 and B2.

Justice Egwuatu said, “These infractions were admitted by the defendant, through her officer, Festus Okoye Esq., in exhibits BI and B2 as earlier reproduced in this judgment.

“At the risk of being repetitive, Festus Okoye Esq. has stated in the said exhibit that in addition, the commission could not rule out infractions by its registration officials in allowing these ineligible persons into the register in the first place.

“He promised that each confirmed case of infraction will be thoroughly investigated and culpable officials will be disciplined.

“It was also admitted by the defendant in Exhibit B1 that several double, multiple, and ineligible registrants have also been detected and invalidated. These include entries that fail to meet the commission’s business rules. The commission takes this responsibility seriously because a credible register is at the heart of electoral integrity. “

The judge also ordered INEC to expunge forthwith from its national voters’ register the names of all the underage voters from each of the polling units across the federation published on her website as identified and compiled by the plaintiff.

Also,  he ordered the commission to furnish the plaintiff with a certified true copy of the cleaned-up national voters’ register of all the persons eligible to vote in Nigeria within 90 days.

Alternatively, he ordered the electoral umpire to publish the cleaned-up national voters’ register of all the persons eligible to vote in the country on its website within 90 days from the date of the judgment.

CREDIT: PUNCH

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