Claim: A social media user claims the Nigerian Government has started the registration of all inmates in Nigeria’s correctional facilities for the upcoming general election and all prisoners are compelled to register for ID cards for the election including those on death row.
Findings show that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is the only legal entity with the powers to register Nigerian voters, is not capturing inmates at the country’s correctional facilities. Therefore, the claim is false.
On September 21, 2021 a Twitter user Media📝🎥:STANCITY WORLD#MNK with the handle @stancity44 posted two pictures of what appeared to be Nigerian inmates on twitter. While the first picture shows a group of men, some shirtless seated together, the second picture shows what appears to be Nigerian inmates lined up in their green uniforms while a staff of the correctional centre stood by.
The picture which had an accompanying text reads: “Breaking News! Nigerian Govt have finally started the registration of all inmates in the Nigerian correctional facility or prison for upcoming election. The prisoners are compelled to Register for an ID card for the election even those on death row.” With over 4,000 followers, Media📝🎥:STANCITY WORLD#MNK (@stancity44) who joined twitter in April 2020, is an ardent supporter of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and shares a lot of pro-IPOB messages on his handle. The said tweet was retweeted 44 times and liked 26 times.
Do Nigerian prisoners have voting rights?
In 2018, a Court of Appeal sitting in Benin affirmed a 2014 judgment of a Federal High Court which gave prisoners the right to vote in Nigeria’s elections. The court of appeal further directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to include all prisoners in the voter register.
The ruling was granted in favour of the prayers by five inmates seeking an order to compel INEC to provide for enlistment of all prisoners in Nigeria in the voters’ register and full opportunity for them to vote in the then 2019 polls. However, Justice S. Oseji who delivered the judgement did not order INEC to liaise with the Nigeria Prisons Service to provide polling centres inside the country’s prisons as prayed for by the appellants.
This reporter reached out to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which according to Section 10(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 is the legal entity backed by law to register all persons qualified to be registered for voting. When contacted, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said INEC is not capturing prison inmates for the on-going Continuous Voter Registration (CVR). “As of today (September 22nd) I am also not aware of any decision by the commission to do so before the 2023 General Elections,” Oyekanmi said.
Dubawa also reached out to sources at the Nigerian Correctional Services and gathered that the authorities were actually registering inmates for the National Identification Number (NIN). There was, however, no mention of any ongoing voter registration at the correctional facility.
The Controller of Corrections Public Relations Officer, Francis Enobore, neither answered several calls to his phone when contacted did; nor did he reply to a text message on the issue. However, the PRO at the Kaduna Correctional Centre, Daniel Wadai, said there was no official communication to register inmates in the state and was therefore not aware of such a claim.
Dubawa noticed that the pictures used to accompany the text are popular online pictures that have been used numerous times by Nigerian media organisations and bloggers to depict the state of prison inmates or accompany stories on inmates in the country. Using Yandex reverse image search, it was revealed that the picture of the shirtless inmates first appeared online in 2013 in a story that depicted the state of prison inmates in Nigeria. The second picture is credited to Daily Trust newspapers and it is a picture of 19 out of the initial 28 suspects standing trial for the alleged murder of retired Maj. Gen. Idris Alkali in 2018. The picture was taken while the suspects were being led to a prison vehicle after their case was heard at the Plateau State High Court in Jos.
Based on information gathered from INEC and the Nigerian Correctional Service, inmates are at the moment not undergoing voter registration for the next general election scheduled to come up in 2023.
The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship in partnership with Daily Trust newspapers to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.