Less than a week to the Edo state governorship election, it has become threatened as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has commenced contempt proceedings against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and its Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, over plans to deploy the procured collapsible transparent ballot boxes for the conduct of the elections.
Justice Adamu Bello has issued Form 48, a Notice of Consequences of Disobedience of Court order against INEC, Jega and the Registrar of Patent, Federal Ministry of Commerce and Trade.
The judge stated that the respondents would be guilty of contempt and liable to imprisonment if they failed to comply with his order barring the deployment of the procured transparent ballot boxes for the poll without first seeking the consent of the patent owner to the boxes.
“Take Notice that unless you obey the directives contained in this order, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison” the judge stated.
The court had on Tuesday June 5, declared as illegal the use of the collapsible transparent ballot boxes used for the 2011 general elections by INEC without the consent of the owner of the patent right to the boxes. The court also barred the electoral body from using the boxes for any subsequent polls including the July 14 Edo governorship elections without first seeking the approval of the patent owner.
The orders of the court were sequel to a suit filed by an indigenous company Bedding Holdings Limited challenging the use of the boxes for the elections. The company had approached the court contending that it has subsisting exclusive and bona fide patent right to the collapsible transparent boxes used by INEC for the conduct of the 2011 polls.
Bedding Holdings which specializes in general fabrication and manufacture of steel metal products said the Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes was among many of its innovations duly registered with exclusive patent right issued to it by the Registrar of Patents in the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The Certificate of Registration of the Patent Right Number RP 12994 and Registration of Industrial Designs Rights Number RD 5946 on the boxes was issued by the ministry to the it on January 12, 1998 for five year period. It was renewed and extended January 12, 2003 and extended January 12, 2008 respectively to expire in 2013.
The company alleged that INEC violated its rights by its failure to seek its approval and consent before awarding the contract for the procurement of the boxes used for the 2011 general elections.
The Federal Executive Council, FEC, on November 24, following a memorandum by INEC, had approved contract for the procurement 150,000 units of the ballot boxes at the unit price of N13,000 with total sum of N1.950 billion to one EMCHAI Ltd.