In a recent development, a Federal High Court in Abuja has issued a directive to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to identify its officials involved in the registration of underage voters during the continuous voters’ registration (CVR) exercise within the next 90 days. The court, presided over by Justice Obiora Egwuatu, also ordered that these officials be handed over to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation and potential prosecution.
Justice Egwuatu further mandated INEC to promptly remove the names of all identified underage voters from its national voters’ register. This action comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Reverend Mike Agbon, who sought clarity on several issues, including whether INEC is constitutionally obligated to conduct credible CVR and if the admission of having underage voters in its register absolves the commission from legal consequences.
The plaintiff, Agbon, discovered the registration of underage voters on the INEC website and presented the evidence, labeled as “Exhibit A,” to the court. Despite a formal request for INEC to provide the list of underage voters, the commission refused to comply.
In response to the court’s decision, Justice Egwuatu ordered INEC to produce a certified true copy of the cleaned-up national voters’ register within the next 90 days. Alternatively, the judge directed INEC to publish the cleaned-up register on its website within the same timeframe.
Notably, the court highlighted the failure of registration officers to adhere to constitutional and electoral provisions requiring voters to be citizens of Nigeria, residing in the country, and at least 18 years old. The judgment cited Section 120(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which imposes penalties, including fines and imprisonment, on officers found guilty of breaching their official duties.
It’s worth mentioning that INEC was absent in court and did not provide any defense despite being served with court processes and hearing notices. The judgment, delivered on November 28, underscores the court’s commitment to upholding the integrity of the electoral process and ensuring accountability for violations.