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Presidency Mounts Pressure On Court Over Card Readers

Presidency Mounts Pressure On Court Over Card Readers

Strong indications emerged yesterday that the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) is banking on the court to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) and its chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, from going ahead with the use of Smart Card Readers(SCRs) for the March 28 and April 11 elections.

The resolve of the party and the presidency is that a favourable judgment must be secured at all cost, if the INEC must be stopped from using the novel device for the polls.

There are two cases before the Federal High Court in Abuja and Lagos. Sources said the presidency would not mind instituting a fresh case in another court just to have its way.

In Abuja, four political parties—United Democratic Party (UDP), Action Alliance (AA), Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and Alliance for Democracy (AD)— had approached Justice Ademola Adeniyi for an ex-parte order stopping the INEC from using SCRs.

But the AA pulled out of the suit in Abuja on Thursday.

A stalwart of the PDP, Waliu Taiwo, has also  filed an application at the Federal High Court in Lagos to stop the use of Card Readers during the general elections.

In suit FHC/C/CS/296/15, Taiwo asked for  a restraining order  against the INEC from using the Card Readers during the elections.

There was anxiety last night that the Federal High Court in Abuja may give its ruling on Monday to make the application before the Lagos court a fait accompli. PDP chiefs were boasting last night that the court will rule in its favour, thus stopping the INEC.

Vice President Namadi Sambo was quoted recently as saying that the INEC would have no choice, but comply once a court rules against the use of Card Readers  for the elections.

Investigation revealed that there were concerns in civil society organisations that the PDP was desperate to use the court to stall the deployment of Card Readers by the INEC in the party’s bid to make it difficult for the electoral body to detect fake Permanent Voter Cards, either cloned or purchased from authentic owners.

It was gathered that the presidency had received legal advice that the Card Readers do not violate Section 52(1) (2) the Electoral Act 2010(as amended).

A leading human rights / pro- democracy activist, who spoke in confidence, said: “There is a fresh plan by the PDP to scuttle the general election on March 28 by securing an order to restrain the INEC from using Smart Card Readers.

“The initial plan was to use the registration  of the Young Democratic Party(YDP) to force the INEC to start planning afresh following the new party’s claim that Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court had ordered that it should be included in the ballot papers.

“But the PDP and some forces in the presidency got a big shock when Justice Mohammed denied issuing such order and summoned YDP leaders for misinforming the INEC and Nigerians.

“They have now resorted to Plan B by taking advantage of the suits on Card Readers to frustrate the INEC and Jega.

“The main fear of the PDP is that the use of Card Readers will not enable the party to rig and secure jumbo votes like the case in some geo-political zones in 2011.”

Another source said: “The PDP and 15 minor parties made the last botched move against Card Readers on Thursday when political parties met with Jega and the INEC management.

“Jega stood his ground and the anti-Card Readers lobbyists left the INEC headquarters in Abuja dejected.

“This is why they have seen the court matters as the last hope to call Jega’s bluff.”

A third source said:  “Some forces in the PDP in Abuja are already bragging that the Federal High Court, Abuja will give a ruling on Monday to put paid to the use of Card Readers.

“They are celebrating as if the court had ruled in a case that they are not parties to.

“It is left to the Judiciary to save the nation’s democracy and avoid a repeat of June 12, 1993 general elections when there were conflicting court orders.”

Justice Ademola Adeniyi is expected to determine the following prayers of the plaintiffs. They are:

•Seeking an interim order restraining the INEC from proceeding with arrangement and plan to use the CRM for the impending elections.

•An order of interim injunction restraining the defendant, its agents, servants, privies or assigns, by whatever name, from implementing or commencing or further implementing or further commencing or directing or further directing the use and preparation of the Card Reader machine or any name of like nature, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

•Deployment of  Card Readers for the elections is a violation of the provision of Section 52(1) (2) which prohibits the use of any electronic method of voting in the country.

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