CHAIRMAN of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation in Europe (NIDO-Europe) Bashir Obasekola has expressed disappointment at the failure of both chambers of the National Assembly to pass the Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to Provide for Diaspora Voting, and other related matters.
Obasekola told The ICIR that it was unfortunate that lawmakers have not seen the need to improve on the current level of Diaspora engagement by making the necessary adjustment to the Constitution to bring the bill to light.
However, he assured that Nigerians in the Diaspora will continue to push so that Diaspora voting can be actualised in the near future.
“It is particularly disappointing to see the number that supported it (bill), which is less than 23 per cent of the whole National Assembly. That shows that we have not improved, even though Diaspora engagement has been on for more than 20 years, it means we are still yet to see the importance of bringing the Diaspora into voting.
“We are disappointed as NIDO, because we’ve done all we can in terms of explanation and lobbying. We have other organisations and initiatives that also tried as much as they could in terms of awareness.
“To us, it was a sad day. We believe that we deserve more in that aspect. We will continue to engage our lawmakers in future because we are not giving up in the struggle to actualise a voting right for the Diaspora in the nearest future,” he said.
In the same vein, the Association of States’ Diaspora Focal Point Officers (ASDFPO) described the rejection of the bill as a setback for Nigeria’s democracy.
The association noted that as a result of the development, a huge segment of Nigerians in the Diaspora, who are contributing to the socioeconomic development of the country, have been disenfranchised.
“What the National Assembly had done and said in no uncertain terms with the rejection of the Diaspora Voting Bill is that this incredible critical mass of our people, whose collective annual remittances dwarfs the country’s annual budgets in most cases, do not matter in the overall socio-economic and political scheme of things.
“ASDFPO believes that the rejection of the Diaspora Voting Bill has not only sent a very wrong signal but a wrong step in the wrong direction. It is therefore our wish that this bill would be re-represented for the right thing to be done,” chairman of the association Femi Odere said in a statement.
The ICIR reported that out of 469 federal lawmakers, only 390 were present during plenary last Tuesday, and while 87 votes were counted in support of Diaspora voting, a majority 269 votes countered the bill, causing it to fail.
Figures released by the National Assembly showed that 62 Senators and 240 members of the House of Representatives voted against the bill, which sought to allow Nigerians in the Diaspora to register and vote in their countries of residence.