National Assembly rejects Diaspora voting

MEMBERS of the National Assembly have overwhelmingly voted against 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 for Related Matters.

The Nigerian government’s records say the country has about 17 million citizens in the Diaspora, even though the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ most recent estimate of Nigeria’s Diaspora is 1.7-million as of June 2020.

The ICIR reports that out of 469 federal lawmakers, only 390 were present during plenary on 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 29 Senators and 58 members of the House of Representatives voted in support of the bill which sought to allow Nigerians register and vote in their country of residence during elections, while 62 Senators and 240 Representatives voted against the bill.

There were high expectations that the Diaspora Voting Bill to amend Section 77 and 117 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to allow Nigerians in the Diaspora participate in electoral process, would be passed by the National Assembly when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) threw their weights behind it.

INEC’s Chairperson Yakubu Mahmood had argued that citizens of Nigeria living outside the country make considerable contributions to the economy through Diaspora remittances and should be able to vote, as Diaspora voting was consistent with global best practices

“INEC is committed to providing Nigerians living outside the country the opportunity to have a say in who become our leaders at various levels. I hope that the legal and constitutional obstacles to voting by Nigerians in Diaspora will soon be removed so that Nigerians, irrespective of where they live around the world would have the opportunity to vote in future elections,” Mahmood had said.



    On her part, Chairperson of NIDCOM Abike Dabiri-Erewa had assured that her office was working closely with the National Assembly to ensure that Diaspora voting which is already being implemented by over 119 countries, becomes a reality for Nigerians abroad.

    “Nigeria cannot afford to be left out given the humongous contributions of Nigerians in Diaspora to the Nigerian economy,” she said.

    For a constitutional bill to pass, it requires the support of at least two-thirds of the members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

    NIDCOM and INEC are yet to react to the failure of the bill.

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