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Nigeria’s INEC sued to allow biometric authentication of voters without voter cards

Nigerian businessman Dr. Ezeh Emmanuel Ezeh is asking a federal high court in Abuja to declare that the National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) should allow duly registered voters without permanent voter’s cards (PVCs) to cast their ballots in the upcoming polls so long as they can be identified, verified and authenticated using their fingerprint and face biometrics.

INEC rules require every voter to present their PVC at the polling station before voting.

In an originating summons dated August 26 and published by Idoma Voice, the plaintiff is seeking a declaration that “no registered eligible Nigerian voter of voting age can be denied franchise for failure to present his/ her voter’s card at the polling unit where and when the name of such an eligible voter is on the official voters register of the Defendant for such polling unit and such voter can be authenticated, verified or identified via biometric identity — thumb prints or facial recognition — or any other technology deployed by the Defendant during the continuous voter’s registration exercise.”

The plaintiff is also insisting that the voter register held by INEC at polling stations across the country “is the valid, authentic and lawful document authenticating valid voters and the voter’s card, card reader, biometric identity, thumb-prints or facial recognition used to register voters can be used to identify, accredit and verify eligible registered voters whose names are in the register of voters.”

The summons by Ezeh Emmanuel Ezeh is also challenging Section 47 (3) of the Electoral Act 2022, saying it is unconstitutional and gives INEC too much power which could infringe on the right of franchise of citizens.

Section 47 (3) of the Electoral Act 2022 reads: “Where a smart card reader or any other technological device deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any unit and a fresh card reader or technological device is not deployed, the election in that unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours if the Commission is satisfied that the result of the election in that polling unit will substantially affect the final result of the whole election and declaration of a winner in the constituency concerned.”

PVC readers and INEC’s new Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) have failed to function in previous elections, drawing criticism.

This lawsuit is one of many challenges INEC is facing as it prepares for general elections in Nigeria coming up early next year.

It comes after a recent call by a group of civil society organizations on the electoral umpire to extend the biometric voter registration period to ensure that over seven million citizens, who didn’t complete the voter registration process as of July 31, can have the opportunity to do so. Read More

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