2019: Group files suit challenging voting in IDP camps

 IDP camps

A group, the Forum for Transparency and Integrity in Leadership, and a lawyer, Samuel Adeniji, have asked the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting elections in internally-displaced person’s camps.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to determine whether INEC can allow IDPs to vote without complying with the law on voter registration.

They are also praying the court to determine whether INEC has the power to conduct the 2019 election in IDP camps without compiling and maintaining a register of voters in respect of eligible voters in the local government areas of origin of the IDPs in question.

The plaintiffs want the court to hold that IDPs can only vote when they comply with the provision of the Electoral Act by applying to the Resident Electoral Commissioner of the respective states in which the IDP camps are located.

The suit came just as the INEC boss, Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission has developed a framework to enable the IDPs to participate in the election.

“We have developed a framework for IDP voting and we validated that framework with full participation of stakeholders,” Channels Television quoted Mr Yakubu, a professor, as saying on Saturday.

“For those who are displaced in a particular state, and are registered in that state will be able to vote there.

“But for citizens of a particular state who are in displaced persons camps in another state, they can only vote in another state because it can manage a national constituency.”

But the suit filed in the federal court in Lagos, whose hearing date is yet to be fixed, the plaintiffs sought a declaration that it would be unconstitutional and illegal for INEC to carry out elections in IDP camps without first complying with the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 by compiling and maintaining as part of the national register of voters the names of all persons entitled to vote in each IDP camp.

The plaintiffs, through their lawyer Lekan Idowu of Edgewise Solicitors, further sought a declaration that they are entitled to view and inspect the voters’ register, if any, which INEC intends to use in the IDP camps.

They also sought for a declaration that it would be unconstitutional and illegal for INEC to conduct elections in IDP camps located in the Niger Republic and the Chad Republic or in any other country or place outside Nigeria.

The plaintiffs sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC from conducting any election during the forthcoming general elections in any of the IDP camps without having first complied with the 1999 Constitution as amended and the Electoral Act with regards to having the names of IDPs on the national voters’ register.

Additionally, they prayed the court for an injunction restraining INEC from allowing any voting in an IDP camp outside Nigeria.

In a supporting affidavit, Mr Adeniji, a lawyer and member of the forum, recalled that INEC recently announced that it would conduct elections in IDP camps in the general elections to be held in February and March.

The deponent said the IDP camps are scattered in different locations in the Northeast and Abuja, adding that he was not aware that INEC has so far enumerated the specific local government areas the IDPs were originally located.

Mr Adeniji said he was also not aware that the individuals who now reside in the IDP camps applied to be registered or to transfer their registration from their original places of abode to their new locations.

“I believe that it is in the interest of justice that the reliefs in the originating summons are granted,” he prayed.

Last month, Mr Yakubu said persons in neighbouring Niger and Chad who were forced out of their homes in Nigeria by insurgency would not be denied their voting rights.