A Federal High Court has on Thursday, December 18, 2014 granted the inmates in Nigerian prisons the right to vote in all elections conducted in the country.
The suit was filed by Modugu Odion , Kabiru Abu, Onome Inaye, Osagie Iyekepolor and Victor Emenuwe on behalf of inmates of Nigeria Prisons and against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Controller-General of Nigeria Prisons Service
According to Justice Mohammed Lima, who made the ruling in a court sitting in Benin, Edo State, the inmates has the right to vote and as such, the defendants should ensure that the applicants (prisoners) were not disenfranchised.
The plaintiffs had prayed the court to determine “whether, having regards to the provisions of section 25 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended in 2011, and section 12 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010, the plaintiffs are not entitled to be registered as voters by INEC.”
The court was also asked to determine, whether having regard to the constitutional provisions of Section 77 (2) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 12 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010, the plaintiffs were not eligible to express their right to vote at any election in Nigeria.
The plaintiffs had also asked that the court should determine whether the failure of INEC to make registration and voting provisions for the inmates in the custody of Nigerian prisons does not constitute an infringement on their rights as citizens of Nigeria as contained in section 14 (1) (2) (a) (b), section 17 (2) (a), section 24 (b), (c), section 39 of the 1999 constitution and Article 13 (1) and Article 20 (1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
According to Justice Lima in her judgement,: “Act by INEC to deny inmates the right to vote is unconstitutional, illegal, irregular, unlawful, null and void and of no effect whatsoever. The defendants do not have the constitutional right to deny the claimants their voting rights.
“Being an inmate is not an offence that impedes their registration and voting right under section 24 of the Electoral Act; and that crime does not change the nationality of any inmate,” he added.