The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday declined to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to allow Nigerians in diaspora participate in the forthcoming general elections.
The court, in a judgement delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, held that existing laws in the country didn’t permit INEC to include citizens in diaspora in the database of eligible voters for the election.
According to the court, by the provisions of Sections 77 (2) and 117 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the right to vote was reserved for every citizen of Nigeria that has attained the age of 18 years and who is residing in the country at the time of registration of voters for the purpose of election.
Justice Ekwo noted that there was a lacuna in the Constitution that ought to be filled to guarantee the right of citizens outside the shores of the country to vote.
It will be recalled that Nigerians in diaspora had sued President Muhammadu Buhari and INEC, insisting they must be allowed to participate in the 2023 general elections.
The plaintiffs, who told the court that they are resident in the United Kingdom and various parts of the world, prayed the court to halt further preparations for the elections, pending their inclusion in INEC’s database.
They contended that the continued refusal of the electoral body to create room for them to participate in general elections, amounted to gross violation of their fundamental rights.
The suit marked: FHC/ ABJ/ CS/2119/2022, was brought by two plaintiffs, Chikwe Nkemnacho and Kenneth Azubuike Nkemnacho, both of whom are resident in the UK.
the plaintiffs, among other things, prayed the court to declare that they were entitled to participate in the electoral process by being registered to vote in 2023 and in all elections wherever they are domiciled worldwide, in line with sections 13, 14, 42 and 17 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
As well as a declaration that there was sufficient time for INEC to include them in its database.
Cited as 1st to 4th defendants in the matter were; the INEC and its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, President Buhari and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In his judgement, Justice Ekwo held that the Constitution was specific that only citizens “residing in Nigeria”, could vote in an election.