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Why prison inmates may not vote in 2023, by INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said legal encumbrances may not allow it implement the Benin High Court judgement on inmates’ participation in the electoral process. INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who spoke yesterday when he received the Comptroller General (CG) of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) Haliru Nababa, said the Commission is committed to inclusivity in the electoral process but advised that a number of factors needed to be strengthened.

Yakubu noted that Section 12, sub-section 1 of the Electoral Act 2022 lists five qualifications for registration as a voter in Nigeria, “because you have to register as a voter before the right to exercise that right is conferred.” Among the five qualifications, according to the INEC Chairman, is that the prospective registrants “must not be subject to any legal incapacity to vote under any law, rule, or regulation imposed in Nigeria.”

He stated that the categories of the inmates who would participate in the election would be worked out between the Commission and the NCS legal department, adding that the Commission was ready to tow the path of Kenya and South Africa that have granted voting rights to inmates. “We want transparency of the process, because everything that we do in the commission, particularly when it comes to the rights of citizens to vote, must be done transparently,” he added. He also raised the issue of the “location of polling units for the inmates, the possibility of political party campaigns in the correctional facilities, voter education for inmates, voter registration for inmates and observers access to correctional facilities to monitor elections if polling units have to be situated in the facilities.” Prof. Yakubu called for quick resolution of the issues, noting that the 2023 general election was barely seven months away.

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