The Federal High Court in Abuja has held that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not obligated to give the Voter Register to Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) for elections, as this amounts to supporting an illegality.

It noted that the elections are those under Edo State Local Government Electoral Law and Edo State Independent Electoral Commission Establishment Law 2017 (as amended in 2022).

The court restrained INEC from handing over the voter register covering all local government councils in Edo State for the conduct of elections under both laws, but added a caveat that “it shall be in place until the inconsistency in Edo State Electoral Law is amended and falls in line with the Electoral Act 2022.”

Justice Taiwo Taiwo made the order on July 27, 2022, in suit FHC/ABJ/CS/423/2022 filed by six plaintiffs, who are members of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State against seven defendants.

“The reduction of the number of days for the purpose of election by the Edo State House of Assembly not being in tandem with the Electoral Act, 2022, is hereby declared null and void,” the judge added.

The first to sixth plaintiffs are Irene Enike Sylvester, Ayoboh Aloaye Francis, Edogun Aiyeki Toyin, Ogioba Osabuohien Kelvin, Alekhoojeom Oikhuduisum Ekhai and Akharumeh F. Benjamin.

The first to seventh defendants are INEC, Attorney-General of Edo State, EDSIEC, Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Clerk of Edo State House of Assembly, PDP and PDP Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.

The court also declared that the Edo State Local Government Electoral Law and Edo State Independent Electoral Commission Establishment (Re-enactment) Law 2017 (as amended in 2022) are contrary to Section 7 of 1999 Constitution.

It declared further that both laws, which provides for the holding of election within 15 days from the date of publication of notice for the conduct of election, is a violation of sections 28, 29, 32(1), 94(1), 103 (1) and (3), 104, 150 (1), (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 2022 and so invalid.

Justice Taiwo also granted an injunction restraining the PDP and its chairman from participating in or fielding any candidate in the proposed local government election in Edo State planned for April, 19, 2022, by the third defendant under both laws.

He further restrained the PDP, Ayu and their privies from allowing any person being the product of Edo State local government election from participating in the party’s primaries/congresses/convention.

The plaintiffs were desirous of contesting election as councillors in the poll planned by the 3rd defendant (EDSIEC) for April 19, 2022, and bought their nomination forms from the 6th defendant (PDP).

It was averred that in 2017 , Edo State House of Assembly enacted the Edo State Government Electoral Law and Edo State Independent Electoral Commission Establishment (Re-Enactment) Law 2017.

They averred that the law provided for 45 days from the period of publication of notice of election to the date of conduct of elections by EDSIEC and that both laws were further amended in March 2022 reducing the period of publication of notice of election from 45 days to 15 days.

They averred that the 15 days’ notice period stipulated under both laws as well as the timetable for the elections published pursuant to the laws made it impossible for them to consult with stakeholders in their various wards, source for finance to fund the elections and run their campaign.

It was averred that Section 28(1) of the 2022 Electoral Act permits INEC 360 days to publish a notice of election and Section 104 and 150 (1) & (2) of the Act allows the commission such as the 3rd defendant to comply with the provisions of 2022 Electoral Act in the conduct of their elections into Local Government Councils.