By Joy Odor
The Comptroller General (CG) of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Alhaji Haliru Nababa has negotiating with the lndependent National Electroal Commission (INEC) for the inclusion of the right of Nigeria inmate in the voting processes during elections.
Represented by the Deputy Comptroller General in charge of Operations, Mr Daniel Odharo, the Comptroller General made the negotiation when he led management team of NCoS on a courtesy visit to the INEC headquarters in Abuja on Tuesday in Abuja.
Responding to the NCoS demand, the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu affirmed the Commission’s commitment to inclusivity to every citizen including the rights of immates to vote during elections.
According to INEC Chairman, the demand to extend voting right to inmates of the correctional service is agreeable in principle as it is being done in Kenya and South Africa.
Professor Yakubu call for transparency of the process of including inmates to participate in the general elections and gave the NCoS some critical guidelines and legal framework section 12, subsection one of the Electoral Act 2022 which listed five qualifications for registration votes in Nigeria to go and work on.
The INEC Chairman mentioned the most important area of reference to the voter which is critical to the discussion, that a voter must not be subject to any legal incapacity to vote, under any law, rule, or regulation in forced in Nigeria.
Professor Yakubu assured the Commission’s commitment to ensuring that all Nigerians are given the right to vote and be voted for exercisable under the law.
The questions he asked NCoS is “In Africa, Kenya, and South Africa, have conferred voting rights on inmates. However, we need to discuss the practicalities of how this can be achieved in Nigeria. Let me start with the legal framework section 12, subsection one of the Electoral Act 2022 lists five qualifications for registration in Nigeria, because you have to register a voter before the right to exercise.
“The section of the electoral law of the five qualifications are, Number one, the prospective registrant must be a Nigerian citizen. Number two, he or she must be 18 years of age at least. Number three, he or she must originate, reside or work in the local government or covered by the registration center or the point of registration. Number four, that citizen of Nigeria must present himself or herself to the registration officer for registration of voter. And number five, 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 in forced 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. We therefore network things out carefully. 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.
“So when will inmates vote, outside the prison or inside the prison? Are we going to set up polling units inside the prisons or the polling units outside the prisons? Say the majority of inmates awaiting trial? We believe that some of them are already registered voters. The majority of them are actually awaiting trial. So they may not be registered voters. If they are registered voter, they can’t be registered. What they will do is to transfer their registration will they transfer their registration for the correctional centers for that reason? Now will political parties be allowed to campaign inside the correctional centers? This is a matter that you need to advise the commission will observe us on the media be allowed access to the correctional centers on election day. So that the process is really transparent and we observe what is happening.
“Will election hold in all 218 Federal Correctional centers currently holding inmates nationwide? Or there are some correctional centers where this process can start instead of older 218.
“We understand that some of the correctional centers are not holding inmates at present. So the process be allowed to cover all the 218 centers. So these are some of the issues that we need to calculate discuss are resolved before a decision is taken. But in principle, the commission is committed to ensuring that all Nigerians are given the right to vote and be voted for but in this particular case, the right to vote which is exercisable under the law. So the sooner we’re able to address this issues, the better for the process. But remember, we have only a little over seven months to the next general election, for the next general election is going to be the last election conducted by Nigeria. So even if we don’t meet all these critical thresholds for 2023 We’ll continue with the discussion to see what happens beyond 2023.
“These are really germane issues that we need to discuss very carefully. So on this note, I’d like to welcome you once again to the Commission at the risk of repeating myself this is agreeable but we need to work out the modalities of how this can be done, and I’ve raised a number of teasers for discussion” Prof Yakubu maintain.