Tuesday, 17 March 2015

100 percent PVC distribution is a constitutional requirement

This piece has nothing against Jega as a person or an umpire but is merely a bonafide legal commentary on his insistence that the only voters he will allow to vote are those possessing their PVC. That is well and good; but in such event, Jega must also be mindful of the following provisions of the law:

First, the PVC regime is not mandated by the Constitution or even the Electoral Act. What the law clearly requires is simple registration. Jega is the one that is creating this unlawful and disagreeable situation of upgrading this notion of PVC to such an infamous extent that is now threatening the stability and good order of Nigeria. To be sure, instead of these runarounds, to vote just requires you to be a Nigerian of at least eighteen years of age; and then stepping up to any designated INEC centre to register. Once you have done that, you have done your part, preparatory to ultimately performing your civic rights to vote and be voted for. Conversely, INEC has a legal duty to oblige you with due registration, and then publish your name in the voters register thirty days to the date of the pertinent election. It is that simple and clear, as intended by our laws; yet, Mr Jega has, for reasons best known to him, single-handedly brought a whole nation to infamy by introducing these burdensome rules of his own.

So, what Nigerians are now dealing with is Jega virtually legislating that you won’t be allowed to vote unless you present a PVC. Nonetheless, despite its pitfalls, failed tests, discriminatory distributions, warts and all, Nigerians now appear helpless and verged on playing along with this patent illegality. But shouldn’t that be on the proviso that Mr Jega must demonstrate, before the elections, that he has achieved hundred percent PVC distribution? Hell, yes, because it is only after Jega has achieved his hundred percent that it might be reasonable to then shift the burden of collection to the voter. If, however, before the elections, Jega fails to achieve hundred percent PVC distribution, he must postpone the elections to allow time for that, otherwise any election result issuing from such willful disenfranchisement of voters will surely be invalidated by the courts for failing the basic constitutional muster. Alternatively, Jega can save the nation all these troubles by simply abiding with what the black-letter law says, and that is: allow all registered voters to vote.

I might add that Jega’s inexplicable absolutism with this PVC and the hideous dangers it portends for our country are clear enough to every patriot, except the duplicitous few who have decided that they will win the elections only when millions of voters have been deliberately excluded by Mr Jega. If Jega, in deference to the secret forces that are said to be pushing him to this perfidy, ultimately decides to proceed with the elections sans distributing PVC to all voters, then he must be prepared to be solely held responsible for all the terrible consequences that are sure to follow. Those consequences are better imagined than stated.

Further, in the making of this inferior administrative rule which suddenly requires PVC as the sole ticket to vote, Jega must ensure that no single voter will be turned away or otherwise willfully or even negligently frustrated from collecting his PVC. And while Jega is at it, he must also be guided that to refuse a voter his PVC on grounds of his partisan affiliation is as evil as it is also grossly unconstitutional. Such refusals have been widely and credibly reported to be happening, with impunity, in Lagos and other parts of far Northern Nigeria. As of now, whether these millions of mistreated compatriot-voters later collected their PVC remains to be seen; yet, I am sure that a slew of well-meaning candidates and their attorneys have been gathering quantum evidence of such willful disenfranchisement, to be later arrayed as material grounds for judicial annulment of all election results that issued from such blatant unconstitutionality.

Finally, there’s this little discussed but important matter of Jega restricting voters to vote only in States of their registration. While this may be administratively convenient for a tardy umpire, there’s nothing in our laws that expressly supports such strange policy. Under the Nigerian Constitution, Nigerians have but a single citizenship, and thus should be legally able to cast their votes from any location or State in the country. If Mr Jega had cared to think about this retrograde policy carefully, he would have been minded that the following unsavory scenarios will surely result from it. First, it will mean that all Nigerians will be restricted to places of their usual domicile throughout the election period, lasting almost two months. That’s very bad and potentially violative of our constitutional right to travel. Second, if you have to travel for whatever good reasons, you will thereby be automatically disenfranchised. This too is as silly as it is latently unconditional, to boot. Third, millions of Nigerians who are now justifiably afraid of voting from certain locations in the country are fleeing, and thus will never be able to vote from their new locations; thanks to Jega and his many bad rules. And now this: While INEC rule says you can migrate or transfer your registration, Jega made it almost impossible for voters to do so when he allowed only a few days window for such voter-migration applications. Those few days expired over two months ago, long before Jega’s ill-fated February 14.

Source: African Herald Express


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