On Friday, court of Appeal Benin Division granted the prayers of five prisoners seeking the order of the court to direct the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to include all prisoners in the voter register.
Justice S. Oseji, delivered the lead judgment on behalf of Justice Helen Ogunwumiju. The appeal was filed by five inmates on behalf of other inmates in Nigerian prisons. Those that filed the appeal are Victor Emenuwe, Onome Inaye, Kabiru Abu, Osagie Iyekekpolor and Modugu Odion.
The judgment affirmed the judgment granted by a Federal High Court in 2014, that prisoners can vote. However, Oseji did not grant a declaration that INEC liaise with the Nigeria Prison Service to create a registration centre at various prisons across the country.
Speaking to newsmen after the judgment, Counsel to the appellant, President Aigbokhan of the Initiative for Rural Development, Information and Legal Advocacy (IRDILA), urged INEC to commence immediate registration of inmates across the country for them to participate in next year’s election. Aigbokhan said they would appeal some aspects of the decision of the Court of Appeal.
According to him, “Prison inmates have their community. Polling units should be located there. We believe they have a right to vote in an election so as to decide those who ultimately decide their future. When franchise is given to them, attention will be focused there. Their situation and health conditions will be improved.
In 2014, the Federal High Court granted our prayers that prisoners can vote but narrowed it to the four applicants in the suit even though it was stated there that those applicants were representing other inmates. We went to the Court of Appeal and the court agreed that the judgement represented all inmates in the country.
That INEC should with immediate effect collate the names of inmates and allow them to vote in 2019. “The judgment disagreed that INEC should create polling units inside the prison. In 2015, the inmates were over 550,000. All INEC needs to do is to update their voter register and liaise with NGO as volunteers to help them. It is victory for Nigeria’s democracy.”