Lawyers back calls for prisoners’ right to vote

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Some legal practitioners in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have supported the calls for prisoners to exercise their civic rights during elections.

Justice S. Oseji of the Court of Appeal, Benin Division, had on Dec. 7, ruled in a suit filed by four Nigerian prisoners demanding the right to vote, that prisoners were allowed to vote during elections.

Some of the lawyers, who spoke on Monday, said that the only right taken away by the law was the restriction of movement of convicts.

They noted that the rights of prisoners to vote for their representatives in government had not been taken away, stressing that they still enjoyed the freedom to vote but not to be voted for.

Mr Felix Ukachi, a legal practitioner, said; I do not think voting by prisoners in elections offends the spirit of the constitution.

“We need to re-think, we cannot remain regimented in the way our colonial masters left us.’’

He also opined that it was only the right to personal liberty of prisoners that was taken from them and not the right to decide who led or governed them.

Mr Ekon Ejembiem, a lawyer, said prisoners were also legitimate citizens of the country and should not be denied some fundamental human rights.

Ejembiem alleged that if elections could be conducted in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in 2015, same should be replicated in the prisons if security was effectively managed.

Mr Edoh Ukaya, a legal practitioner, however, said that it would not be practicable now if prisoners were allowed to vote in the country.

Ukaya said though it was achievable, it was not advisable because of the current security situation in the country.

He advised that such an idea could be considered by 2023 when the situation might have improved.

Mr Chike Uzoma, a legal practitioner based in Abuja, said that the constitutional provision to vote by any Nigerian was the attainment of the age of 18.

“I am 100 per cent in support of the judgement of the Appeal Court that gives prisoners the right to vote and choose their leaders,’’ he said. With reports by NAN

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