Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu in Abuja
The hope of Nigerians living in diaspora to participate in the electoral process have received some nods as the Presidency, the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have expressed commitment to work towards the implementation of diaspora voting.
The stakeholders revealed this yesterday during a workshop by the Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council in Abuja.
Speaking at the workshop, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stated that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has endorsed without any reservation diaspora voting.
Represented by Senator Babafemi Ojodu, the vice president said Nigerians in diaspora contribute greatly to our economic growth with their resources, therefore it goes without saying that they are potentially crucial in playing their part significantly to sharpen Nigerian issues and developmental journey.
He said: “In the words of President Buhari in Addis Ababa, ‘you will need to convince the National Assembly to amend the relevant laws to make diaspora voting a reality.’ What he was saying in effect is that the ball is now in the court of the National Assembly, the federal government on his part is ready to collaborate with Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council.”
On its part, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said the electoral body would nothinder diaspora voting rather the commission believed it’s the way to go.
INEC National Commissioner, Mohammed Leki, in his presentation, said the commission was in support of diaspora voting and it’s ready to see to its implementation.
“We cannot have inclusiveness without bringing every Nigerian wherever they are along. We need to harvest our diasporians into the voting system because they matter. This is a subject matter in which the commission has shown a great deal of interest. We have studied it very carefully and we are positioned to do the needful at the appropriate time. Observing election in other countries has given the commission a wide range of first hand knowledge on how other election management bodies handle the issues of diaspora voting,” he said.
He, however, noted that a legal framework is needed to be put in place as the current legal framework is one of its major impediments.
Also commenting further on the issue of diaspora voting, the Speaker House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said a constitutional amendment is needed to enable diaspora voting.
He reiterated that a lot of work is needed to be done to deliver standard electoral system to all Nigerians irrespective of their location.
“Our diaspora citizens use their resources to develop businesses and support family members here at home. They invest in their communities, so it is not peculiar that they expect to participate in choosing those who lead our politics and administer the affairs of our Nigerian state.
“The topic of diaspora voting has within a short period of time become a matter of intense public debate. It is true that our electoral process in Nigeria is far from perfect. We have started that work, and we will succeed in that objective.
“I refuse to accept as some have posited, that our existing limitations are sufficient reason not to attempt to achieve full electoral participation for all our citizens at home and abroad,” he said.
Earlier, the Chairman of Nigeria Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri, expressed optimism that the 9th National Assembly would pass the diaspora voting bill to law when it’s reintroduced.
She noted that the advantages outweighed the disadvantages, adding that they should make it possible for Nigerians in diaspora to vote.