Anti-Card Reader Suit Suffers Setback

The Action Alliance has withdrawn from a suit it filed along with three other political parties to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission from using the electronic card readers in the forthcoming general elections.

The suit was filed in the name of the four political parties before Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court in Abuja.

Apart from the Action Alliance, which was the second plaintiff in the suit, FHC/ABJ/CS/173/2015, other plaintiffs in the suit are the United Democratic Party, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria and Alliance for Democracy. INEC was joined as the only defendant in the suit.

Justice Ademola struck out Action Alliance’s name from the suit after it successfully argued on Thursday that it did not authorise any lawyer to join it as a plaintiff in the suit.

The suit was filed on behalf of the parties by three Senior Advocates of Nigeria – Dr. Alex Izinyon, Bolaji Ayorinde, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu.

But Action Alliance through a different counsel, Mr. Malachy Nwankwe, appeared before the court on Thursday informing the judge that it did not authorise the filing of the suit.

Izinyon who led the plaintiffs’ legal team however urged the court to ignore Nwankwe as he (Izinyon) was duly instructed to institute the suit at a meeting where the chairmen of the four political parties were present.

He argued that for the party to change its counsel, it had to, in accordance with Order 9 Rule 35 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, file an application in that respect.

But in his response, Nwankwe, said rules cited by Izinyon were not applicable as the party could not be regarded as having filed the suit.

He said the chairman of Action Alliance was no longer fit to give such legal instruction since he had become the party’s presidential candidate.

The lawyer added that after the chairman of the party became the presidential candidate the party’s official who could validly issue a legal instruction to a lawyer to institute a suit was the party’s National Legal Adviser.

Nwankwe said, “We are not required to file an application for change of counsel because we did not file the suit in the first place.

“The National Legal Adviser who is in a position to give legal instruction on behalf of the party, was the one who asked us to withdraw from the suit.

“We want to go. We are not willing to be a party in the suit.”

The judge upheld Nwankwe’s position and eventually struck out Action Alliance’s name as a plaintiff in the suit.

The court also granted separate applications by the All Progressives Congress, Civil Empowerment and Rule of Law Support Initiative and the Fiscal and Civil Rights Enlightenment Foundation, to join the suit as co-defendants.

But shortly after they joined as parties in the suit, the parties through their respective lawyers opposed an order of the court delivered on March 2, abridging the time within which the then only defendant –INEC – to file its responses.

APC’s lawyer, Mr. Kola Awodein (SAN), and other defendants’ lawyers asked the court to grant them the period allowed in the court rules to file their responses to the suit.

The application was opposed by Izinyon who urged the court to stick to its earlier order.

Justice Ademola is to deliver ruling on the new defendants’ application on Friday (March 13).

The plaintiffs argued that the use of Card Reader Machine for the forthcoming election was not in conformity with the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and that their members across the country who have been enlightened on the accreditation procedure as contained in the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) would be disenfranchised as they were not educated on the use of Card Reader.

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