Nigeria’s Federal and the legislative arms of government have declared support for agitations by Nigerians in the diaspora to be allowed to vote during the country’s general elections. This is even as the government has resolved to work closely with the Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council (NDVC) to ensure that all impediments to actualising the participation of Nigerians abroad in the country’s elections were overawed.
The resolve was part of the outcome of a stakeholders’ meeting convened by the NDVC in Abuja on Monday.
Assuring that the 9th House is committed to the issue of diaspora voting, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila noted that millions of Nigerians who strive to make a living outside the country “have as much a stake in the present and future of Nigeria as those of us who live here.”
He noted that after years of struggle on the issue of Diaspora voting, “there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel” under the current National Assembly.
“I’m saying all this because I want us to make the process a near-perfect one. There are so many issues that surround the issue, and we need to address them. But I am for Diaspora voting.
“The topic of diaspora voting has within a short time become a matter of intense public debate. This reflects the capacity of our diaspora citizens to influence the content and tone of public policy conversations here at home.
“It also causes us to confront the simple, unavoidable reality that this is a subject matter for which we must find resolution within the shortest possible time.
“It is true that our electoral process in Nigeria is far from perfect. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that we deliver on an electoral system that is faithful to the best expectations of the Nigerian people. 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.
“As Speaker of the House of Representatives, I am committed to achieving for all our people a democracy that is broad-based enough to accommodate all the range of voices that exist within our society.
“Our nation’s fortunes are much improved and our best aspirations are much more achievable when we pursue them together, drawing on all the wisdom, diversity of expertise and experience that exist amongst all of us”, he added.
Also speaking in his keynote address, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who was represented by Mr Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Matters, said that the present administration had endorsed diaspora voting without any reservations.
“There is need for all stakeholders, who are desirous to participate in the elections to approach and work with the National Assembly to amend the constitution in order to accommodate those in diaspora to vote during our elections”, he said.
On his part, the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), South Africa Chapter, Hon. Bola Babarinde, expressed optimism that the long struggle for enabling laws that would guarantee participation of Nigerians in the diaspora in the country’s voting process is achievable, saying that the lawmakers can make the necessary amendments to the constitution and the Electoral Act in two week if the political will was there.
Reminded that any amendment to the constitution would require the amendment to be transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly for passage, he noted that if the Amotekun law, establishing the security outfits in South West were crafted in a week, nothing stops the State Assemblies from passing the constitution amendment in two weeks.
In her speech, the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa appealed to lawmakers and all relevant stakeholders to ensure that diaspora voting was realised in the shortest possible time.
Earlier in his welcome address, the NDVC chairman, Prince Ade Omole urged the stakeholders not to procrastinate giving effect to diaspora voting, saying “there is no better time than now”.
He expressed the believe that at the end of the workshop, “the necessary machinary will be set in motion to fast track the realisation of the diaspora voting project in 2023 general elections”.