13th December, 2010
A desperate attempt by the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, to get aÂ Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to set aside an order it made on the 3rd ofÂ December restraining the electoral umpire from going ahead with preparations withÂ regards to the procurement of the Direct Data Capture machine, collapsed on MondayÂ as the trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta refused to vacate the order.
The electoral body represented by Mr. A. B Mahmud, a senior advocate of Nigeria, hadÂ appealed to the court to vacate the restraining order to enable INEC continue withÂ the process of the acquisition of the machines with which it plans to embark on theÂ voter registration exercise scheduled for second week of January 2011.
In an application moved before the court, Mr. Mahmud contended that the restrainingÂ order issued against INEC is too broad, vague, uncertain, incomprehensible andÂ incapable of enforcement and argued that the award of contract for the DDC machinesÂ is a completed act for which no restraining order can reverse.
The senior advocate further contended that the restraining order issued against hisÂ clients was not hinged on any alleged legal right nor does it aims at protecting anyÂ right. While contending that the order seeks primarily to disrupt the forthcomingÂ elections, Mr. Mahmud conceded that any claim based on infringement of Patents orÂ Copyrights are commercial disputes and can be adequately compensated by the award ofÂ damages if established and called on the court to set aside its order.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice represented by CarolÂ Ajie joined in the attempt to get the court to vacate the order. The lawyerÂ contended that the restraining order was made against a completed act as the DDCÂ machines were already being expected to arrive at the INEC Headquarters any timeÂ soon. Ms. Ajie took the call for the setting aside of the order to a new dimensionÂ when she alleged that the patent right which the plaintiff, Beddings NigeriaÂ Limited, claims to hold over the DDC machine is a ruse, a deception.
In his response to these calls to the court to vacate the order, counselÂ representing Beddings Nigeria Limited, Chief Asam Asam, also a senior advocate ofÂ Nigeria prevailed on the court not to vacate or set aside the restraining orderÂ against INEC which he accused on infringing on his clientâ€™s Patent Rights. He arguedÂ that the essence of the grant of an order of injunction is to protect the existingÂ legal rights of a person from unlawful invasion by another.
He frowned at INECâ€™s calculated attempt to infringe on the legal rights of a NigeriaÂ citizen and urged the court to allow the restraining order to remain so as toÂ protect the res, the subject matter of the suit. He also called on the court toÂ order for an expedited hearing of the substantive suit.
Chief Asam also pointed out to the court that the defendants have not shown that anyÂ grounds as enunciated by the Supreme Court for a court to set aside its order existsÂ in this case and urged the court to refuse the defendants application since theÂ order i
â€”Nnamdi Felix / Abuja