By Victor Ogunje
Following steps being taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to introduce electronic voting to the nation’s electoral system, the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDC), Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has said her commission is working towards ensuring that the over 20 million Nigerians living abroad are allowed to vote in future elections.
She gave the hint in Ado Ekiti on Saturday, at the celebration of the 2019 Ekiti Diaspora Homecoming Reception put together by the Ekiti State government, in conjunction with youth organisations.
Represented on the occasion by the Head, Media and Public Relations of the commission, Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Balogun, Mrs Erewa argued that since Nigerians living abroad are contributing an estimated $25 billion to Nigeria’s economy, it is only normal that they are allowed to vote in their various countries of abode.
“With Nigerians in Diaspora contributing so much to the Nigerian economy, estimated at over $25 billion in 2018, we believe they deserve to vote.
“We are already working with the National Assembly to hopefully make this a reality in Nigeria through amendment to the country’s Electoral Act.
“We therefore look forward to many more engagements with Nigerians in the Diaspora in the years ahead,” she said.
She disclosed that the Commission, in collaboration with other stakeholders, has also drafted and validated a holistic Diaspora policy currently awaiting the approval of the Federal Executive Council.
According to her, the federal government has already declared July 25, every year, as a date set aside to recognise and appraise Nigerians in the Diaspora on their contributions to national development
This, she noted, is to ensure networking, dialogue and constructive interface between Nigerian professionals and experts in the Diaspora and Nigerians at home, on development challenges and opportunities.
She said since the establishment of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, a lot of activities has been embarked upon to fulfil the mandates of the commission.
“Such activities include advocacy to states to key into the larger Diaspora movement.
“The establishment of Diaspora focal point in the governors offices in all the states of the federation is paramount.
“I am happy to inform you that Ekiti State is one of the frontline states out of 16 states that have established either a Diaspora desk or office of Diaspora Affairs
“On November 5th and 6th, 2019, we organised the second Nigeria Diaspora Investment Summit in Abuja which was a huge success with participation by over 600 people from different parts of the world.
“As a follow up to the Summit on 18th and 19th December, 2019, two young Nigerians resident in Saudi Arabia, put together the first Saudi Arabia/Nigeria Investment Forum, an offshoot of the Nigerians in Diaspora Investment Summit. It was also a great success,” Dabiri said.
The Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, represented by his Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Affairs, Mr Femi Odere, described the theme for the Diaspora homecoming, “Leveraging Diaspora Resources for Youth and Socio-Economic Development in Ekiti state,’’ as apt.
The governor said he deliberately created the Diaspora Affairs Office, so that Ekiti sons and daughters living abroad, further contribute to the economic restoration agenda of his government.
The chairman of the occasion, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), called on all Nigerians in Diaspora, especially those from Ekiti State, to shun negative activities that can give the country and the state a bad name.
Represented by Prof Sylvester Ojo, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics) of the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Babalola urged them to strive to always project the good name of the country and be of quality assistance to the jobless and the needy in the country.