2015 Election: Court Begins Hearing On Prisoners Right To Vote In NigeriaLatest News, News Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
By Eric Ojo
As the jostling and agitations heralding the forthcoming 2015 general elections gather momentum in Nigeria, an Abuja High on Monday began hearing on a case seeking orders to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to register and allow prisoners to vote during the election.
The case, which was instituted by two prisoners at the Federal High Court No 2 Abuja division, wants the court to explore and validate the legal provisions which guarantees them to the right to exercise their right to vote as citizens of Nigeria.
The prisoners contend tat they still have all the rights of every citizen despite their imprisonment.
There are about 75,000 inmates in the Nigeria’s 142 prisons and lock-ups. Over the years, these prisoners have been disfranchised because there are no arrangements to conduct voter registration or polls in the prisons.
The suit which was filed in 2012 on behalf of the prisoners by Legal Defence & Assistance Project LEDAP, seeks court orders to declare that they have the right to vote in all general elections and therefore eligible to be registered and allowed to vote. They therefore seek an order to compel INEC to register them as well as all prisoners in the country and to set up polling stations in all prisons so that prisoners can exercise their rights to vote.
The court, according to a statement signed by Melissa Omene Legal Officer, LEDAP, the court will hear arguments on the case and adjudicate accordingly.
Meanwhile, Nigerian laws allow all citizens who have attained the age of 18 years or above the right to vote in elections and to participate in selecting who will govern them.
Making further clarifications on the matter, the counsel to the prisoners and a representative of LEDAP, Mr Chino Obiagwu, said excluding prisoners from voting in elections is not only discriminatory but also a gross violation of their rights to freedom of expression.
According to him, “A prisoner does not lose the rights he or she has as a citizen simply because of fact of imprisonment, even if convicted and sentence to death.”
He also noted that if the court finds in favour of the Prisoners, it will open up the prisons for more humane treatment of their inmates, thereby increasing the respect for the rights of prisoners in the country.
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