The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Warri branch, on Thursday dragged President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to a Federal High Court sitting in Warri, Delta State, over alleged attempts to stop the use of Card Readers for the general elections scheduled for the 28th of March and April 11th, 2015.
Also joined in the Suit Number FHC/WR/CS/40/2015 by the plaintiffs were the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Warri NBA wants Justice Abubakar Shittu to determine whether any of the parties to the suit have any rights to interfere with the use of the Voters’ Card Reading Machines (VCRMs), for the polls.
The plaintiffs, Mr John Aikpokpo-Martins, Chairman NBA, Warri, Mr Othadua Okpakpor, Secretary NBA, Warri and Olukunle Edun, Chairman, NBA Warri Public Interest Litigation Committee joined Jonathan, the PDP and the APC as 2nd, 3rd and 4th Defendants respectively.
Accordingly, the plaintiffs are seeking a court injunction restraining the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Defendants from interfering with the functions of 1st Defendant (INEC) particularly with regards to the usage of the VCRMs in the forthcoming elections.
The claimants are also asking the court to give an order compelling INEC, either by itself, servants, agents and privies to use the VCRMs in the 2015 general elections and subsequent elections.
According to the plaintiffs, since the National Assembly appropriated a sum of money for the purchase of the VCRMs in the 2014 Appropriation Act and was duly assented to by the President (2nd Defendant), the respondents cannot turn around to oppose same.
The claimants argued that the cancellation of the use of the VCRMs would amount to a violation of the 2014 Appropriation Act, fundamental rights of the citizens and credibility of the elections.
Subsequently, the plaintiffs are, among others, asking the court to declare that: ‘’ the 1st defendant (INEC) cannot be subjected to the control and influence of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants.
‘’ That the voter card reading machines being part of the operations and activities of the 1st defendant, the 1st defendant cannot therefore be compelled by the 2nd, 3rd , and 4th defendants to withdraw the use of same in the 2015 general elections or direct its usage.
‘’ That the National Assembly, having appropriated sums of money for the purchase of the voter card reading machines in the 2014 Appropriation Act, and same having been duly assented to by the 2nd Defendant, it would amount to a violation of the 2014 Appropriation Act, if the 1st defendant refuses/neglects/fails to use the voter card reading machine in the general elections’
‘’ A declaration that the chairman and national commissioners of the 1st defendants cannot be directed /requested/compelled to proceed on any leave from work by the 2nd defendant or any of its officials or subordinates unless their constitutionally guaranteed five year tenure of office has expired’’
On the sidelines of the court session, the NBA, Warri Chairman, told newsmen that the court has refused sub-self service, noting that they have been ordered to serve the Defendants who all reside in Abuja personally.
The case has been adjourned till March 26, 2015 for hearing.