From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has ruled out the possibility of inmates in correctional centres across the country voting in next year’s general elections.
Its chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, made the disclosure when the Controller General of Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Haliru Nababa, visited him at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, yesterday.
Nababa had told Yakubu that the visit was to work out the modalities for inmates to vote in the forthcoming elections.
“The court recently gave judgment in favour of inmates to vote in elections to select leaders. The modalities to meet the process needed to be worked out and so we need to be here to discuss with INEC to find out how this process can be achieved,” said Nababa, who was represented by Daniel Odaro.
Yakubu, however, said with only seven months to the general election, and other legal encumbrances on the category of inmates that the law permits to vote, it would be practically impossible for prison inmates to vote.
“The next general election is not going to be the last election conducted in Nigeria. So, even if we don’t meet all these critical thresholds for 2023, we will continue with a discussion to see what happens beyond 2023. These are really germane issues that we need to discuss very carefully.
“However, we need to discuss the practicalities of how this can be achieved in Nigeria. Let me start with the legal framework. Section 12(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 as a voter is conferred. The fifth, which is really critical to our discussion today is that he or she must not be subject to any legal incapacity to vote under any law, rule, or regulation imposed in Nigeria.
“So this is one area that we need to discuss so that we know the categories of inmates that will exercise the right to vote…will political parties be allowed to campaign inside the Correctional Centres? This is a matter that you need to advise the commission. Will observers and the media be allowed access to the Correctional Centres on election day so that the process is really transparent and will INEC officials be granted access to the Correctional Centres for voter education? This is a matter that we need to discuss,” he said.