Stakeholders Advocate for Voting Rights for Prison Inmates in Electoral Act Review

by David Okoye

During a roundtable on custodial center reform, stakeholders in the justice sector urged the National Assembly to include voting rights for inmates in the proposed review of the Electoral Act.

Jude Isiguzo, executive director of CAPIO, emphasized that there is no legal barrier to granting inmates voting rights, citing a court ruling from 2014. He pointed out that even awaiting trial inmates have the right to vote.

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Isiguzo highlighted examples from other African countries like South Africa, Zambia, and Kenya where inmates participate in national elections, urging Nigeria to follow suit.

He called on INEC to lead the revalidation of the draft framework on inmate voting and collaborate with the National Assembly to integrate inmates into the voting process.

Adebayo Balogun, chairman of the House Committee on Electoral Matters, expressed support for allowing non-convicted inmates to vote in general elections, indicating willingness to push for this inclusion.

INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu affirmed the electoral body’s commitment to enabling inmates to vote, stating that efforts have been ongoing since 2015. He expressed optimism that by 2027, inmates would participate in Nigerian elections.

The stakeholders collectively urged the National Assembly to incorporate provisions for inmate voting in the electoral act reform and called on the Minister of Interior to engage INEC regarding inmate registration and establishment of polling units in correctional centers.

The push for voting rights for inmates aligns with efforts to promote inclusivity and uphold the democratic principles of representation and participation.

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