Court grants prisoners right to vote


Federal High Court judge sitting in Benin has ruled that denying inmates the right to vote was “unconstitutional, illegal, irregular and unlawful”.

The ruling followed a suit by five inmates – Victor Emenuwe, Onome Inaye, Kabiru Abu, Osagie Iyekepolor and Modugu Odion – for themselves and on behalf of inmates of prisons.

Defendants in the suit are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Controller-General of Nigeria Prisons Service.

The plaintiffs had, among others, sought a determination on “whether having regards to section 25 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended in 2011, and Section 12 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010,” they were not entitled to be registered as voters by the 1st defendant.

Justice Lima Mohammed ruled that inmates in Nigeria had the right to vote in the country’s elections, ordering the defendants to ensure that the applicants were not disenfranchised. The judge ruled that “the defendants do not have the constitutional right to deny the claimants their voting rights;

“That being an inmate is not an offence that impedes their registration and voting right under section 24 of the Electoral Act; and

“That the exclusion of inmates in elections conducted in Nigeria is illegal, ultra vires, null and void.”

Counsel to the plaintiffs, Aigbokhan President, hailed the judgment and stated that erosion of inmates’ rights to vote creates dangerous and fragile environment for human rights.

“The judgment is a wedge on the slippery slope of creating second class citizens in Nigeria,” he said.

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