2023 elections: Nigerians in diaspora advocate policy that will allow them to vote

By Vera Anyagafu

Working on the technical areas of developing a policy that will enable Nigerians abroad take part in the Nigeria 2023 electoral process may not be actualised, following indications that diaspora voting was not included in the recent constitutional amendments by the National Assembly.

In a recent report, Chairman, Nigeria Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, gave reasons diaspora Nigerians may not participate in the upcoming February 2023 elections.
Reportedly, Professor Yakubu mentioned at an appearance at the Chatham House, London, UK, that although the electoral body subscribes to it, the Nigerian law makes it impossible for such category of citizens to vote in the country’s elections, saying the position of law remains and he is absolutely convinced that it is only a matter of time when such will be achieved.

He also hinted that the Commission had long begun the process of developing guidelines, regulations, and policies in anticipation of an amendment to the legal framework to enable Nigerians abroad participate in voting process.

This he said in a chat with the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters, Honorable Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

He said working together with the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, will support the push for the relevant amendments to the existing laws.

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Specifically, he went on, there are two areas in the law where amendment may be necessary. The first one he mentioned is Sections 77(2) of the Constitution which restricts registration and voting to persons residing in Nigeria and in that light, Nigerian Citizens residing outside the country cannot vote.
There is also section 134(2) which talks about the threshold for declaration particularly for presidential elections, majority of votes and then the spread a quarter of the votes in two third of the states, he declared.

Still on Diaspora voting and INEC plans, the INEC Chairman believes in the Presidency to expedite the legal processes as well as information on the records of Nigerians living outside the country, while explaining the out of country voting and the Diaspora voting, which he said are two different categories.

Out of country voting is basically for Nigerians on missions abroad, such as, members of the Foreign Service, members of the Diplomatic Corps that are posted out of the country and so on, then there is the Diaspora voting for Nigerians resident outside the country, he explained

In her own words, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who said she is aware that the key thing is to amend the laws to make it possible for Diaspora Nigerians vote during the electoral process, said action has to be taken to ensure the demand is met.

She disclosed she will work together with the Commission to push further to make this happen, saying, it was agreed that a technical committee should be set up comprising staff of INEC and the Presidency to share experience and information that would be beneficial to the cause of actualizing on Diaspora Voting in the country.

However, the report which was occasioned by the eagerness from many Nigerians living outside the country to be included in the electoral process also looked at the remittance of billions of dollars into the Nigeria economy by some of the Diaspora Nigerians.

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Many argued that they have been contributing hugely to the development, growth and progress of the country and regret why there should not be a policy to allow them participate in the country’s electoral process.

According to the Special Adviser to the Chairman, Orumba North and South Community in Congo RDC Kinshasha, and Chairman, New Chris Motors Limited, Honorable Ugockwukwu Chris Kenechukwu, Diaspora voting will be encouraging to me.
“Diaspora voting will give me a sense of belonging as complete citizen of Nigeria, knowing that my vote counts. I am not going to talk only about myself because I’ve lost count of the many calls by fellow Diaspora Nigerians who are eager as I am to participate in the voting process in our dear country, Nigeria. We are all interested in making Nigeria great. I make proud to say that I am among the many Diaspora Nigerians who are remitting Billions of dollars to the Nigerian economy, year in, year out. There are also a group of professional Nigerians across the world who have the interest of the country at heart and work tirelessly to ensure the economy of the country moves up. We are contributing to the development growth and progress of our country and should be given a chance to participate in choosing our leaders. We want to be included in the electoral process. We want to vote. It is our right and I urge the responsible Nigeria authority to accord us the chance to vote in our country’s 2023 electoral process.”
“It will be delightful to have both National Assembly and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) put all machinery in place to actualize and implement such law”, Hon. Kenechukwu said.
Also sharing his view on the Diaspora Nigerians 2023 elections concerns, US based Nigerian, and expert in Office Technology and Management, Mr. Nelson Onyegbule, said that although, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it does not as yet have the enabling laws to carry out Diaspora voting in 2023, there is still rising interest in the nation’s electoral process by citizens in the Diaspora, hence it is bound on the responsible authorities to hasten up in the process of making it happen.

Onyegbule who is also the Chief Executive Officer, Nelly’s Motors and Logistics Limited and President, A.N Perfect Touch LLC Colorado , USA told African Leadership Magazine via a telephone conversation that it was high time Nigeria toed the path of other countries in Africa that allow their citizens resident in other countries to exercise their franchise in their home countries.

He said it have become too imperative that the National Assembly amends the law to allow Diaspora Nigerians exercise their voting right.

His words, “I understand at the moment that the current operative law does not allow Diaspora voting, but it is also important that the operatives understand that we are Nigerians too and have the right to actively participate in the Nation’s electoral process and vote, even as residents in our individual host countries.

We have variety of reasons to vote, one of which is that we are interested in the affairs of our own country. We make considerable and remarkable contributions to the economy through huge financial inflow to the country. It is also not too good to ignore the sizable amount of Nigerian citizens living outside the country.”

However, Onyegbule concluded by saying that Diaspora voting is consistent with global best practices, while urging for the Electoral Act to be amended to make this happen.

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