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CHAIRMAN of the Nigerian in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) Abike Dabiri-Erewa has lent her voice to the call for electronic voting by urging the National Assembly to make it possible for Nigerians in the diaspora to be able to vote in the near future.
Dabiri-Erewa made the call on Sunday, July 25, during the 2021 National Diaspora Day, themed, ‘Diaspora Integration for National Peace and Development,’ streamed virtually via Zoom.
“We are only asking for one thing: make it possible for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be able to conduct diaspora voting, when INEC feels that the infrastructure is ready,” Dabiri-Erewa said.
She urged the legislature to put the over 17 million diaspora Nigerians into consideration as the country sought an amendment to the Electoral Act 2010.
“We are optimistic that we will achieve diaspora voting. I hope history will be made under the 9th National Assembly,” she added.
The chairman also urged Nigerians in the diaspora to be good ambassadors of the country and to share best practices with Nigerians at home, while commending the COVID-19 Support Group, an initiative of diaspora Nigerians, for donating about N80 million for the purchase and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to every state in the country.
She reiterated that development could only thrive in a peaceful environment, hence the need for collaboration for maximum cooperation and progress of the nation.
She further disclosed that Abia and Edo states would soon join 33 other states in the country that had set up a diaspora commission. Sokoto, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states are the only three states yet to have a diaspora focal person.
Also emphasising the importance of diaspora voting, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zubaru Dada and the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stressed that Nigerians in the diaspora should be granted the same opportunity to decide the governance process in the country as those who resided at home.
“All relevant parties are working assiduously to ensure that Nigerians in diaspora voting rights are attained, as we believe that Nigerians in the diaspora have the same rights and responsibility as Nigerians who reside at home,” Dada said.
In her words, Okonjo-Iweala added: “We are Nigerians, we should be able to vote; and we can do it easily through our embassies being empowered.”
One of the high points to mark the 2021 National Diaspora Day celebration was the official presentation of the recently approved National Diaspora Policy to Nigerians in the diaspora. The policy was put together by NIDCOM, the Standing Committee on Diaspora Matters, the International Organisation for Migration, the European Union and other relevant stakeholders.
The National Diaspora Policy was validated by every relevant Ministry, Department and Agency (MDA) on July 5, 2019, and was adopted and approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on February 20 this year.
The vision, mission and goal of the National Diaspora Policy is to effectively promote and harness the capacity and resources of Nigerians in the diaspora for the growth and development of the country.
It is hoped that the policy will create a framework for Nigerians in the diaspora, maximise their potential in capital, knowledge and networks for constructive engagements aimed towards sustainable national development.