THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has prayed the Federal High Court, Abuja Division to terminate an action initiated by three politicians to challenge the legality of its (INEC) planned creation of 30,000 new polling units in the country ahead of the 2015 general election.
The politicians, plaintiffs in the matter, are Ikogi Godspower Joseph, Odumegwu Sunday Chinedu and Omotoso Nicholas.
INEC premised its prayer for striking out of the suit on the averment that it has since abandoned its earlier plan to create the said new 30,000 polling units.
The electoral body’s position was contained in a reply affidavit to the plaintiffs’ counter affidavit.
In INEC’s reply affidavit filed by its counsel, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), it contended that with the outright cancellation of plans to create the said polling units, events have overtaken the court action as it has become academic.
INEC contends that the action “has become hypothetical, academic and no practical value to the plaintiffs even if judgment was awarded in their favour.”
It attached a press statement it issued on November 12 wherein a reversal of the decision on the polling units was contained.
INEC counsel averred that it will now use the polling units created before the 2011 general election and that efforts will be made to ameliorate sufferings of Nigerians in any crowded units.
“It is not in doubt that the crux of the plaintiffs’ case is hinged on the allegation that INEC unlawfully created additional polling units across the states of the federation. While we have shown that it was only an intention to so do, the 1st defendant (INEC) by exhibit ‘A’ has suspended the decision to create the said additional polling units.”
‘’Inferentially, the case of the plaintiffs automatically collapses like a park of cards in view of the reversal of the decision to create the said polling units. This invariably renders this suit hypothetical and your Lordship will have no jurisdiction to entertain it.”
However, counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr. Kayode Olatoke (SAN) objected to termination of the case on the ground that INEC should not be trusted until after the 2015 election.
The matter has been adjourned to January 28, 2015.
The plaintiffs, Ikogi Joseph from Bayelsa State, Odumegwu Chinedu from Anambra State and Omotoso Nicholas from Ekiti State had applied to the court to restrain INEC from giving effect to the new polling units.
Apart from INEC, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation was also joined as a defendant.
Their counsel, Olatoke (SAN) posed six questions for the determination by the court. All the questions queried the basis for the creation and the legality of the new polling centres recently announced by INEC.
The plaintiffs asked the court to declare that INEC acted beyond its power under section 73 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution when it created the new polling units.
They argued that a fresh national population census had to be conducted before new polling units could be created and that since no such census was conducted, the new polling units were illegally created.
They also asked the court to declare that: “The act of INEC in creating more polling units for the northern part of Nigeria in utter neglect of the southern part is discriminatory and against the express provision of section 42 (1) (b) of the 1999 constitution.”
In an affidavit filed in support of the originating summons, the first plaintiff, Joseph, said that INEC without any basis increased the number of polling units from 119,973 to 150,000 and arbitrarily allocated same to various states.
He stated that INEC, without justification, discriminatorily allocated 24,386 polling units to the north out of the 30,027 polling units and allocated the remaining 5,641 to the southern part of the country.
He averred that with the new polling units distribution, the 20 states in the north would have 83,607 polling units while the 17 states in the south were allocated 66,393 units.
He said: “I know as a fact that in the northern state over 500,000 people have died and another 650,000 had been displaced as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency.
“That I know as a fact that most people that fled from Bornu, Bauchi, Yobe, Adamawa, Niger, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau States and Abuja fled to the southern part of the country and Cameroon.”
He also claimed that the voting population of the northern states had reduced by over 20 million due to the insurgency in some states.
He concluded that the fact that many in the north had been forced to relocate to the south implied that the south should have more polling units while the north should have less.
He added: “Rather than adding to the number of polling units in the southern part, INEC removed. And closed down many polling units in five states namely Anambra, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Enugu and Osun.
“That the formula for the creation of the new polling centres is a ploy for northern Nigeria to continue to dominate the south.”
Joseph said that there was no justification or any development to the voting regime in the northern part to justify that astrological increase to give advantage of about 14,000 polling units over the south.