The federal government and the National Assembly have given a nod towards the actualisation of the clamour for those in the diaspora to participate in the country’s elections.
The government and the National Assembly will work closely with the Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council (NDVC), to achieve this, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said at a workshop in Abuja on Monday.
The workshop, organised by the NDVC, was aimed at addressing the voting challenges faced by those in the diaspora, during elections.
The vice president, who was represented by Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Matters, said the administration of Mr Buhari has consented to diaspora voting without any limitations.
“There is a 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,” said Mr Osinbajo.
“This now goes to the legislature to make this a reality, namely: an amendment of the laws by the National Assembly so that those in the diaspora can vote in future elections.
The vice president said the council would need to convince the National Assembly to amend the relevant laws to make diaspora voting a reality.
He emphasised that Nigerians in the diaspora give their contribution to the nation’s economic growth with their own resources and are part of the nation’s sojourn towards development.
In his speech, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, told the gathering that the 9th Assembly is committed to the issue of diaspora voting and assured that they have given their nod.
Mr Gbajabiamila said after years of contention on the issue of diaspora voting, “there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel” under the current National Assembly.
The Speaker said many Nigerians who earn their living outside the country, “have as much a stake in the present and future of Nigeria, as those of us who live here.”
He, however, said there were difficult tasks that need to be solved to ensure this, such as the need for a law that would allow Nigerians not in the country the opportunity to vote during elections.
“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’m 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,” the Speaker said.
Responding, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the chairman/CEO, Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) commended the dedication, commitment, and passion of the chairman of NDVC, Ade Omole, in the quest to actualise diaspora voting soon.
“I think we have heard a lot, especially on the technicalities, but the key thing is that we have agreed that it is desirable and that it is about time we knew what the legal challenges to achieving our goal are.
“I think it will happen. However, are there challenges? Yes, there are things to be worried about. That is why we are liaising with the National Assembly.
“First thing we need is to be practical, have a draft bill that will be sent to the legislature, which Mr Omole has already worked on, and all the issues will be debated so that Nigerians will decide whether they want it or not.
“The idea is that a lot needs to be done. So, we need to come up with what is ours, what we want as ours.
“Nigerians are willing to do anything for their country. We should make diaspora voting possible for our brothers and sisters,” she said.
Speaking earlier, Mr Omole said that the stakeholders’ workshop was organised to sensitise Nigerians in diaspora on their voting rights.
Recall that on June 18, the House of Representatives assured the European Union Observers Mission of the present administration’s resolve to embark on electoral reforms ahead of the 2023 general elections.