The Federal High Court’s Abuja Division has rejected a lawsuit that sought to halt the upcoming general elections due to the exclusion of qualified Nigerians who reside overseas.
In a ruling on Wednesday, Judge Inyang Ekwo ruled that the petition lacked validity since the country’s current legal framework did not guarantee Nigerians living abroad the right to vote in any election.
He claimed it was the responsibility of those who were impacted by the issue to contact lawmakers.
“The court does not pass legislation. No matter how compassionate or humanitarian the circumstance or reason, it cannot also broaden the law to accommodate it.
“It only interprets and explains the laws, and it is the law,” he said, “that when interpreting the provisions of a statute, the court must not ascribe meanings to clear, plain, and unambiguous provisions in order to make such provisions conform to the court’s view of their meanings or what they ought to be.”
The judge continued, “The right to vote is reserved for every citizen of Nigeria, who has attained the age of 18 and is residing in Nigeria at the time of registration of voters for the purpose of election to a legislative house, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter for that election. ” The provisions of sections 77 (2) and 117 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) support this.
The phrase “residing in Nigeria” in the provisions of the constitution, according to Mr. Ekwo, had challenged and in fact removed the foundation of the applicants’ case, despite the fact that they had asked the court to rule that Nigerians living abroad were eligible to vote in the upcoming elections.
In addition, he noted that their application had been submitted on November 9, 2022, right before the general elections.
“The applicants deserve only praise for bringing this issue to light. The court, however, is not now the best place to find a solution. This case has shown that there is a gap in the law that prevents Nigerians living abroad from exercising their right to vote in Nigerian elections, the court said.
The court cannot repair this gap in the law by decree or by importing provisions from other statutes, he said. There is a problem whose resolution requires legislative action rather than judicial action.
As a result, Mr. Ekwo dismissed the lawsuit due to its lack of merit.
In order to protect their fundamental right to vote in the general elections of 2023, Nigerians of voting age residing abroad filed the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, with the case number FHC/ABJ/CS/2119/2022, dated October 31 and filed on November 9 by their attorney, Augustine Temfeh-Nkemnacho.
The federal government and President Muhammadu Buhari, as the first through fourth respondents, respectively, entered the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs argued that INEC shouldn’t move forward with the 2023 election campaign until its voter register and bio-database had been updated to include them as registered voters.