The Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council (NDVC) on Tuesday in Abuja applauded the Senate for its consistency in ensuring that the Diaspora voting bill is passed into law.
Mr Ade Omole, the Chairman of NDVC, while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) particularly thanked Sen. Kabiru Gaya, Chairman, Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for his strong support for Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Gaya (APC-Kano South) recently assured that Nigerians in the Diaspora would be able to vote from their countries of residence during elections, once the constitution was amended.
“The issue has been discussed. We certainly don’t have problems with the people in Diaspora voting for the president or governors they want or whichever position from their countries of residence.
“I know it is also a constitutional issue, but we may have to amend the Constitution to ensure that.
“When the issue of amendment of the Constitution comes up, that issue I know will be inserted in the amendment, but it has to be approved,” Gaya said.
Omole said the benefits of passing the Diaspora voting bill, which passed second reading at the House of Representatives on Dec. 15, 2020, into law could not be overestimated.
He said it was disheartening that out of over 25 million Nigerians in the Diaspora, according to World Bank 2017 estimates, many had to incur huge travel costs and dedicate time travelling home to exercise their franchise during general elections.
This, he said, should not be the case in this generation considering that Nigeria is the giant of Africa.
According to him, the over 25 million Nigerians resident abroad make considerable contributions to the country’s economy through financial inflow and should be allowed to vote from their countries of residence during elections.
Omole recalled that in 2017 alone, 22 billion dollars was recorded as gross remittances into the country from Nigerians in the Diaspora.
This, he said, was 16.4 per cent higher than what was obtained in 2016, adding that in 2018, Diaspora remittances to Nigeria equalled 25 billion dollars, representing 6.1 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The 2019 total is estimated to be close to 30 billion dollars including remittances made through unofficial channels,” Omole said.
He therefore stressed that the process to enable Nigerians in the Diaspora vote during elections should go beyond party politics and affiliations.
Omole, while noting that Diaspora voting was already being practised in other democratic countries, said it was a serious matter that should not be politicised.
He added that the issue must go beyond sloganeering and translated into a practical and achievable project in the interest of all.
He further said that there was, therefore, need for all critical stakeholders to demonstrate readiness and articulate a reasonable roadmap that would eventually lead to the electoral franchise of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
This, he said, was especially so because Nigerians in the Diaspora make the fifth largest remittances worldwide after India, Mexico, China and the Philippines.
He added that there were 115 countries world over that allowed voting by their Diaspora citizens, out of which 28 of such countries were found in Africa.
Omole said it was important for Nigeria as the giant of Africa and the future of Africa, to entrench Diaspora voting in its electoral process.
He assured that the council would continue working in collaboration with National Assembly, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), INEC, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) and other critical stakeholders to articulate the modalities for Diaspora voting.