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Court dismisses suit to stop 2023 elections over the exclusion of eligible diasporans

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The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has dismissed a suit seeking to stop the forthcoming general elections over the exclusion of eligible Nigerians living abroad.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment on Wednesday, held that the existing law in the country did not guarantee the right of Nigerians in the diaspora to vote in any election; hence, the suit lacked merit.

He said it was the duty of those affected by the issue to engage the legislature.

“The court does not enact laws. It cannot also expand the law in order to accommodate an issue before it, no matter how sympathetic or humanitarian the cause or situation is.

“It only interprets and expounds the laws, and it is the law, as stated before in this judgement, 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,” he said.

The judge added that by the provisions of sections 77 (2) and 117 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), “the right to vote is reserved for every citizen of Nigeria, who has attained the age of 18 years 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.”

Mr Ekwo further explained that though the applicants were praying the court to declare that Nigerians in the diaspora were entitled to vote in the forthcoming elections, he said it was the phrase “residing in Nigeria” in the provisions of the constitution that had challenged and indeed, removed the foundation of their case.

Besides, he observed that their application was filed on November 9, 2022, at the eleventh hour of the general elections.

“The applicants can only be commended for bringing this matter to the fore. However, the court is not where the solution lies for now. What this case has revealed is that there is a lacuna in the existing law with respect to the right of Nigerians in the diaspora to vote in elections in Nigeria,” the judge explained.

He added, “The lacuna here is not such that the court can fill by pronouncement or by importing statutory provisions from anywhere. There is a situation whose solution is by legislative and not judicial process.”

Mr Ekwo, consequently, dismissed the suit for lacking in merit.

Nigerians of voting age living in the diaspora had filed the suit to enforce their fundamental rights to vote in the 2023 general elections.

On behalf of Nigerians in the diaspora, two plaintiffs, Chikwe Nkemnacho and Kenneth Azubuike Nkemnacho had filed the suit.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/2119/2022, dated October 31 and filed November 9 by their lawyer, Augustine Temfeh-Nkemnacho, the plaintiffs sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its chairman, Mahmood Yakubu.

Also joined in the suit were President Muhammadu Buhari and the federal government as first to fourth respondents, respectively.

The plaintiffs were asking the court to stop INEC from proceeding further with the 2023 electioneering process until the commission’s voter register and bio-database were updated to accommodate them as registered voters.

NAN

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