Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), on Tuesday, explained why Nigerians in the diaspora cannot vote in the upcoming February 2023 elections.
Responding to a question about diaspora voting at a speaking appearance at Chatham House, London, United Kingdom, he said although the electoral body subscribes to it, the Nigerian law makes it impossible for such category of citizens to vote in the nation’s elections.
PREMIUM TIMES had earlier published Mr Yakubu’s full speech which he delivered during his session at the Chatham House.
“The position of law remains; unless you are resident in Nigeria, you cannot register and you cannot vote,” he said.
However, “I am absolutely convinced that it is only a matter of time when this will be achieved,” Mr Yakubu added.
He narrated that the commission maintains an open-door policy and has collaborated with different diaspora groups to the point when the proposition for diaspora voting was sent to the National Assembly for deliberation where it was defeated.
Efforts at getting legal framework
The issue of diaspora voting has been an ongoing conversation and was among the issues thrown up for deliberation at the constitution review hearings last year.
In March 2022, the National Assembly struck out the proposal for diaspora voting even when INEC said it was ready.
The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) in September of the same year said it would continue to canvas it.
Diaspora voting allows non-resident Nigerians to vote and choose who leads the West African country.
“Voting by those in the diaspora should be a settled issue and if you ask me, I will say you are preaching to the converted but the commission does not have the power to make it happen. The enabling law will have to be provided for it to happen,” Mr Yakubu noted.
“Not just because of the remittances as people would argue, but because they are citizens and citizens must enjoy rights,” he added.
Nigeria has about 15 to 17 million of its citizens in the diaspora who, according to data from the World Bank and Budget Office of the Federation, remitted $60.22 billion in the last three years to boost economic activities and the nation’s external reserves.
Although not all of them have attained the voting age of 18 in Nigeria, the number constitutes 16 to 18 per cent of the total 93 million voters registered by INEC to vote in this election cycle.
Mr Yakubu joins the list of persons directly connected to the upcoming elections to speak at Chatham House, a London-based think tank.
READ ALSO: 2023: Obi to speak on economy, security, others at Chatham House
Others who had had speaking sessions there are the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi.
Two other candidates, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) are also expected to speak there.
The Nigerian presidential election will be held on 25 February and a total of 18 candidates are scheduled to take part in next month’s election but only four of them are believed to have a chance of victory. The four are Messrs Obi, Tinubu, Kwakwanso and Abubakar.
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