Diaspora Voting: FixPolitics, NIDCOM, others dialogue on way forward

Ms Lola Thompson Duke, Coordinating Co-chair, FixPolitics Diaspora Initiative
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By Fortune Abang

Dr Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), has called on compatriots abroad to form a united front aimed at promoting diaspora voting in Nigeria.

Dabiri-Erewa made the call during a virtual conference centered on institution diaspora voting in Nigeria, organised by FixPolitics Diaspora Dialogue, a Non-Governmental Organisation.

According to her, Nigerians are everywhere across the world, and that they can work closely together to form a common front in a bid to achieve their pursuit for diaspora voting.

Dabiri-Erewa said, “Nobody in diaspora can have an edge over the other. There is no where we do not have Nigerians.

“More importantly, we should have everything in place before diaspora voting; it must not start immediately.

“Let it start when INEC feels it is ready for it because we cannot keep amending the constitution all the time about this.”

The NIDCOM boss commended Nigerians in the diaspora for contributing towards the development of their fatherland through remittances which made up 60 per cent of the nation’s Internally Generated Revenue.

Anthony Ubani, Executive-Director, FixPolitics Africa, said the dialogue engendered innovative solutions that can facilitate the full realisation of diaspora voting in Nigeria.

According to him, Nigerians in the Diaspora represent a dynamic and vibrant community spread across the globe.

“This comprise individuals and institutions that remain deeply connected to the Nigerian homeland, as well as endowed with both financial and intellectual wealth.

“Yet, in spite of their citizenship and the tremendous capacity they contribute positively to the Nigerian project, these Nigerians in the diaspora continue to be denied their fundamental right to vote.

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“This disenfranchisement not only undermines the principles of democracy, it also diminishes potential for diaspora engagement in shaping the policies and decisions that impact their lives and millions of Nigerians back home.

“We must recognise the urgent need for constitutional reform with a view to guaranteeing the full and equal participation of all Nigerian citizens in shaping a new Nigeria, regardless of their geographical location.

“The time has come for us to advocate for legislative action that will enable diaspora voting in Nigeria, to ensure that every Nigerian who is eligible to vote is able to do so,” he said.

He explained that an estimated 20 million Nigerians live in the diaspora, adding that Nigerians at home and abroad have to work together to achieve the desired goal.

Ubani also said they have to partner to effectively implement strong and credible advocacy programme aimed at advancing constitutional, electoral, political and economic reforms.

He noted that the journey to realise such goal must begin with constitutional reforms that would enable Nigerians living abroad to exercise their franchise.

Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, Founder, FixPolitics, said Nigerians can encourage the political class to establish structural reforms and facilitate economic productivity in the country.

Ezekwesili, therefore, urged Nigerians in the diaspora to lend their voices, insights and experiences to the discussion.

Dr Bashir Obasekola, President, Nigerians in Diaspora, Europe, said the discussion on cultural and economic development would not be complete without political engagement.

“We should emphasise on political engagement and speak with one voice; every Nigerian need to be carried along wherever they are,” Obasekola said.

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Ms Elizabeth Johnson, President, Nigerian Women Association in South Africa, said the call for partnership among compatriots had become expedient to enable citizens living abroad to vote and be voted for in elections.

Johnson blamed poor awareness as one of the factors hindering efforts to drive solutions designed to achieve diaspora voting.

She therefore, suggested the establishment of polling stations at various Nigerian consulate abroad and voter education campaign to achieve progress.

Meanwhile, Ms Lola Thampson Duke, Coordinating Co-chair, FixPolitics Diaspora Initiative, said a five-member committee would be inaugurated with the mandate to prepare a working document for presentation to the National Assembly as a means to realise the set goal. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Emmanuel Afonne

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