The Electoral Commission (EC) has stated that excluding the existing voters’ identification cards as proof of qualification for the intended new register is a matter of law.
It averred that it has the sole exclusive constitutional responsibility to compile a voters’ register within the confines of the relevant laws and also determine how the compilation will be effected.
Accordingly, the EC, “is not subject to the direction or control of any other person or body as provided for in Article 45(a) and Article 46 of the Constitution and as enunciated by Abu Ramadan & Anor (No.2) v EC & AG (No. 2) [2015-2016] 1 SCGLR 1.”
The Supreme Court on Thursday June 4, 2020 directed the EC to file a supplementary Statement of Case to offer legal bases for not allowing the existing voter identification card to be used as a primary source of identification for the upcoming compilation of the new register.
In its defence, the Commission established that there are three Voters ID Cards obtained under three different Constitutional Instruments namely; C.l 12, C.l 72 and C.l. 91.
All three, it submitted, should not be included in the intended voters’ registration exercise as a matter of law.
According to the Commission it has realized, through its own internal review and due diligence mechanism that C.l. 12 did not require any proof of qualification to register as a voter.
“It means that anyone who registered under C.l 12 cannot be said to have satisfied the constitutional test of proving qualification since no proof was required even though the criteria for qualification under Article A2 was set out therein.
“A review of C.l 12 shows that what was provided in it was a challenge mechanism to enable a person’s registration to be challenged but again an applicant for registration did not have to prove first that he or she actually qualified.
“This clearly shows that the Voters ID Card derived from the C.l. 12 registrations are legally and constitutionally doubtful and therefore cannot be relied upon as the basis for meeting the constitutional qualification test,” the EC pointed out.
According to the EC, the Supreme Court found in Abu Ramadan No. 1 with respect to C.l 72 that the use of the NHIS Card to register was unconstitutional because it did not prove qualification.
It noted that an anecdotal evidence provided by registration officials during the compilation of the voters register under C.l 72 showed that a majority of applicants used the NHIS to register as it was the most widely accessible card at the time.
“This led the Supreme Court to conclude as a matter of law that the 2012 voters register procured under C.l. 72 was neither reasonably credible nor accurate.”
The EC argued the voters’ registrations under C.l 91 of 2016 are constitutionally and legally doubtful for the reason at the voters’ ID Cards procured pursuant to C.l 12 and C.l 72 are legally and constitutional doubtful and cannot be relied upon as credible proof of qualification to register.
It insisted that exclusion of previous voters’ ID cards will therefore not in any way disenfranchise any prospective registrants as being purported.
The EC said the second legal reason for its course of action was that in exercising its exclusive constitutional duty it placed before Parliament, a Constitutional Instrument that did not include the use of the old voters’ ID Cards, and exercising its constitutional discretion to do so.
It stressed that excluding the existing voters’ card for the new registration will give the new register more credibility.
The EC reiterated that the compilation of the new register should not admit the existing voter identification card because it did not satisfy the constitutional test of proving qualification.