A President of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) in the U.S., Dr Adeola Popoola, has urged 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 for Related Matters.
Popoola, who is the president of NIDO in New Jersey, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York on Friday.
”The National Assembly should as a matter of necessity and with the urgency pass the staled Diaspora Voting Bill,.
”The bill has already passed four National Elections cycles,” he said.
He said that one in two Nigerians in USA, planned to have their “voices represented”, by proxy voting, even if not counted in this 2023 elections.
“This brings to front, that most diaspora Nigerians feel disenfranchised and marginalised, that the Country they hold beloved and spend significantly towards, by sending money, words and acts, will deny them their rights.
“Is it right time to head to Court on this, several individuals and groups have counted on NIDO Americas, to alert our Government, before they will individually seek Court injunctions on this human-rights deprivation and isolation.’’
Nevertheless, he said Nigerians in Diaspora had been contributing so much to the economy of the country by annual remittance., which is over 21 billion dollars.
He said that Nigerians living abroad had been supporting those at home in electing their expected leaders, noting that more of diaspora money has flown into the Nigerian economy this one-month because of the elections.
“Add to this, one, the direct sponsorship and contributions to campaigns that has involved about 25 per cent of our population, and two, another one hundred Diaspora Nigerians who are on her ballot or had participated in the primaries.
“It is disheartening, and very unremarkable that the gigantic and impressive Nigeria, cannot enable what several other countries have granted to their citizens abroad,” he said.
NAN reports that in 2022, the National Assembly 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.
NAN reports that the federal 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.
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.
NAN reports that the Chairman of the Committee on Diaspora, Tolulope Shadipe has promised to reintroduce the diaspora voting bill in a bid to accommodate Nigerians living abroad.
Shadipe, representing Oluyole federal constituency, stated this when the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, appeared before the Committee.
Dabiri-Erewa was at the National Assembly to defend the Commission’s 2023 budget and 2022 budget performance.
Shadipe said the National Assembly rejected the bill during the constitution amendment exercise.
She said the bill for the diaspora voting would pass this time because that is the direction the world is going and Nigeria must not be left behind.
“We would be back with the bill, they are Nigerians and they have the right to vote in Nigerian elections,” she stated.. (NAN)