A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a suit seeking to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from proceeding with the forthcoming general elections in view of the exclusion of eligible Nigerians living in foreign countries.
In a judgment on Wednesday, Justice Inyang Ekwo found that the existing law in the country did not guarantee the right of Nigerians abroad to vote in any election.
Justice Ekwo, while describing the suit as unmeritorious, held that where a right was not provided for in the Constitution, there was no need insisting on the enforcement of such a right not recognised by law.
The judgment was on a fundamental rights enforcement suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/2119/2022 filed by Chikwe Nkemnacho and Kenneth Azubuike Nkemnacho (on behalf of Nigerians abroad).
The judge added that it was the responsibility of those affected by the issue to engage the Legislature to enact the needed law to accommodate them in future elections.
He said: “The court does not enact laws. It cannot also expand the law in order to accommodate an issue before, it no matter how sympathetic or humanitarian the cause or situation is.
“It only interprets and expounds the laws. And, it is the law, as stated before in this judgment, that when interpreting the provisions of a statue, the court must not ascribe meanings to clear, plain and unambiguous provisions in order to make such provisions conform to the court’s view of their meanings or what they ought to be,” the judge said.
He noted that by the provisions of Sections 77 (2) and 117 (2) of the Constitution, the right to vote is reserved for every citizen of Nigeria, who has attained the age of 18 years residing in Nigeria at the time of registration of voters for the purpose of election.
“The right to vote for a president or governor is tied to the right to vote in an election of any legislative house, going by the provisions of Sections 132 (5) and 178 (5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“The applicants can only be commended for bringing this matter to the fore. However, the court is not where the solution lies for now.
“What this case has revealed is that there is a lacuna in the existing law with respect to the right of Nigerians in diaspora to votes in elections in Nigeria.
“The lacuna here is not such that the court can fill by pronouncement or by importing statutory provisions from anywhere.
“There is a situation whose solution is by legislative and not judicial process,” Justice Ekwo said.
Listed as defendants in the suit were: INEC, its Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.