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April 19, 2024
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Stakeholders push for inmate voting rights in Electoral Act review

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By Ibironke Ariyo

Some stakeholders in the justice sector on Wednesday urged the National Assembly to include the right of inmates to vote in the proposed review of the Electoral Act.

The stakeholders made the call at a roundtable in Abuja on the reform of custodial centres organised by Carmelite Prisoners’ Interest Organisation (CAPIO) in collaboration with YIAGA Africa and Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS).

Rev. Father Jude Isiguzo, the Executive Director of CAPIO, said there was no legal inhibition to granting the right as a court had ruled on the matter since 2014.

Isiguzo said that besides the convicts, those awaiting trial have every right to vote.

”There is also no legal or constitutional provision against the participation of these persons from voting during elections in Nigeria.

“It is necessary that we take a leaf from some of the African countries where inmates in custodial centres vote in national elections.

“In South Africa, for example, elections officers have visited correctional centres across their country to register over 100,000 inmates to vote in this year’s national election.

“In Zambia and Kenya, inmates vote in their national elections. These are just some of the African countries that uphold the rights of adult citizens to vote in their national elections,” he added.

Isiguzo also urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to lead the revalidation of the draft framework on inmates voting.

He also solicited the support of INEC to work with the National Assembly towards capturing inmates in the voting process.

“We request the two chambers of the National Assembly to graciously capture inmates voting in Nigerian general elections in the reform of the electoral act being expected.

“We also request the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo to write INEC on their readiness to have inmates registered and also for polling units to be established in the correctional centres,” he said.

In his remarks, Adebayo Balogun, Chairman, House committee on Electoral Matters, believed that inmates who were not convicted should be allowed to vote in general elections.

Balogun, represented by Adegbenga Adeboyejo, said Nigeria should take lessons from some African countries that allowed inmates to vote.

“I believe that inmates who are not convicted have the right to vote during the national election. We will support this and we will ensure this come to be,” he added.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said the commission has been making efforts since 2015 to get inmates to vote.

Yakubu, who was represented by his Special Assistant, Mr Mohammed Kuna said, “we will put heads together and ensure this happen in Nigeria. I can see clearly that by 2027, inmates will vote in Nigeria.”

In his goodwill message, the Controller General of NCoS, Haliru Nababa, said that the service has no objection in getting inmates in their custody to vote during elections.

According to him, the NCoS is fully ready and aware that inmates’ right to vote may come with challenges and is preparing for that.

Nababa who was represented by the Controller Operations, Ibrahim Usman, said that it was high time that inmates in Nigeria are allowed to vote.

According to him, it will be morale booster for the inmates as they would not feel neglected.

“Awaiting trial inmates are not guilty of any crime and they have the right to vote in Nigeria. We are ready when this is ready,” he added.

Also, the Programme Coordinator of YIAGA Africa, Mr Ibrahim Faruk, called on civil society organisations and spirited individuals to join hands with CAPIO to ensure that the advocacy succeeds.(NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Maharazu Ahmed

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