The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, okayed a suit that is seeking to compel the Federal Government to declare a short vacation across all tertiary institutions in the country to enable students who are eligible to vote to travel to their various wards to participate in the forthcoming general elections.
The suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/117/2023, was brought before the court by a final year student of the University of Benin, Moses Omoyele.
The plaintiff, through his lawyer, Mr. Jideobi Johnmary, told the court that he instituted the action as a concerned student and human rights activist, to enforce his fundamental right and that of over 4million Nigerian students he said are at risk of being disenfranchised.
Cited as Respondents in the Originating Summons he anchored on Sections 39 (1), 46 (1) & (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as Article 9(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act), are; the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Education.
Equally joined as respondents in the matter are; the National Universities Commission, NUC, National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, as well as the National Commission for Colleges of Education, NCCE.
In a 28-paragraph affidavit that was attached in support of the suit, the plaintiff told the court that there are over 2.1 million students currently studying in Nigerian Universities, while over 2.4 million are students in Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Education across the country
“I know as a fact that the academic calendars of various tertiary institutions were structured in a way that most students are disenfranchised as school calendars do not take into consideration the timelines and dates for elections. Attached herewith and marked as ‘Exhibit C’, for example, is a copy of the Academic calendar of the Federal University of Technology, Minna showing that there are examinations to be conducted on the 24th day of February, 2023 which is a day to the date of the commencement of the General Elections.
“I know as a fact that 3.8 million of the newly registered voters are students, accounting for 40.8 per cent of the total number of newly registered voters as stated by the Chairman of the 1st Respondent, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the Commission’s 2022 third quarterly meeting with political parties in Abuja.
“I know as a fact that these students who constitute 40.8 per cent of the newly registered voters, have their polling units sited in states outside their campuses, thereby necessitating traveling outside their respective institutions to vote in the 2023 elections.
“I know as a fact that tertiary institutions are not considering academic breaks for students during the general elections, despite having knowledge that most students registered outside their campuses during the continuous voter registration exercise, which took place during the prolonged Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike
“I know as a fact that the INEC has devolved Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) distributions at the registration areas and wards across the 774 local government offices throughout the federation.
“I know as a fact that Distribution of PVCs at the Wards has ended, and the exercise moved back to the Local Government/Area Council Offices, thereby further limiting the chances of the students to collect their PVCs which is a precondition for voting at the polls.
“I know as fact that while the students are busy with academic activities, the INEC is engaged in distributing PVCs at the wards across the 774 Local Government Areas of the federation which deprives students the opportunity to collect their PVCs.
“I know as a fact that INEC has enormous statutory powers to make special arrangements for students to collect their PVCs to vote”, he averred.
Consequently, the plaintiff, is among other things, praying the court for mandatory order, “directing the 3rd to 6th Respondents to declare a reasonably short vacation across all tertiary institutions in Nigeria, to enable the Applicant and indeed all Nigerian students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria, who are eligible to vote, travel to their various wards to be able to participate in the electoral process by voting for candidates of their choice in the forthcoming General Elections thereby expressing themselves and their political opinion through the ballot box.
“An injunction restraining all Tertiary institutions in Nigeria, from fixing any academic work such as classes, lectures, tutorials, assignments and or exams in any tertiary institution in Nigeria starting from a period not later than seven (7) days before the commencement of the 2023 General Elections and ending at any time not earlier than three (3) days after the conduct of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
It also sought “an order mandating INEC to give an additional special one-week for the collection of Permanent Voters’ Cards so as to enable the returning students, who have been in school during the period INEC slated for the collection of Permanent Voters Cards to collect their own PVCs and be able to participate in the electoral process by voting for candidates of their choice in the forthcoming General Elections, thereby expressing themselves and their political opinion through the ballot box”.
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the matter to be heard.
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