By Gabriel Enogholase
BENIN—A Federal High Court sitting in Benin, Edo State, has held that prisoners in Nigerian prisons have the right to vote in all elections conducted in the country.
Justice Mohammed Lima, who made the ruling in a suit by Victor Emenuwe, Onome Inaye, Kabiru Abu, Osagie Iyekepolor, Modugu Odion (for and on behalf of inmates of Nigeria Prisons), against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Controller-General of Nigeria Prisons Service, also directed the defendants to ensure that the applicants were not disenfranchised.
The plaintiffs had, in the suit, asked 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.”
They had also prayed the court to determine, whether having regard to the provisions of Section 77 (2) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 12 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010, the plaintiffs were not entitled to cast their votes at any election in the country.
They had also asked the court to 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 enshrined 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.
In his judgment, Justice Lima, said: “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 the exclusion of inmates in elections conducted in Nigeria is illegal and ultra vires.”