Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Tuesday, said Nigerians in the Diaspoa may be granted voting rights in their host countries if the National Assembly could amend the current Electoral Act ahead of time.
Prof. Yakubu dropped the hint on Tuesday, while receiving the members of the Senate Committee on the Diaspora and Non Governmental Organisation who were on oversight to the Commission Headquarters, in Abuja
The INEC boss stated that the Commission under his leadership would continue to work closely with the two chambers of the National Assembly to deepen the nascent democracy by ensuring that Nigerians living outside the country were given rights by the law to participate in the nation’s democratic processes as obtained in the other countries of the world.
According to him: “INEC believes these set of Nigerians living in the Disapora should have the rights to vote, Nigerians are everywhere in the world and they are contributing their quotas to the development of those countries and majority of them have been demanding for their rights to vote so as to contribute to the development of the country.
“But as we are now, Nigerians in the Diaspora still have to come home to register. During the voters’ registration exercise and to come again during elections, that is in line with the provisions of the current Electoral Act, to enfranchise them, the electoral Act has to be amended.
“We at INEC supports Diaspora voting, it is regrettable that out of 115 countries of the world that allow Diaspora voting in their countries, 28 of them are from the African continent and unfortunately Nigeria is not among, some of the countries even create Diaspora constituency.”
Prof. Yakubu then appealed to the lawmakers to speed up the process of amending the 2010 Electoral Act as amended to accommodate all Nigerians of voting ages to get voting rights ahead of the 2019 general elections so that “all Nigerians of voting ages irrespective of where they live in the world will have the rights to cast their votes in future elections.
This came as the Committee passed a vote of confidence on the electoral Commission under the leadership of Prof Yakubu based on the exemplary performances since constituted last year.
Speaking, the Chairperson of the Committee, Senator Rose Orji Okoh, said that the Committee came purposely to interface with the Commission on how Nigerians of voting ages living in the Diaspora could be incorporated to vote in the 2019 general elections or in the future elections in Nigeria as being done in the other countries of the world.
Senator Okoh pointed out that the Committee was interested in knowing all the problems confronting the Commission ahead of the future elections in the country that would not accommodate the Nigerians in the Diaspora in getting voting rights so as to legislate against them and give the Commission the legal backing against those obstacles.
Oko stated that the continuous agitation by Nigerians in the Diaspora to be given the opportunity to exercise their franchise, and the favourable disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan, among others to the idea, informed the Committee’s visit to INEC.
According to her, “the former President had endorsed the idea in 2010 during his visit to Gabon, while the current President also gave his support during his recent visit to Malabo.
The senator, who once served as National Commissioner at INEC, affirmed that “a total of 115 countries, 28 of which are on the African continent, currently have provisions for Diaspora voting.”
She admitted that some Nigerians were against the idea “because of what they perceived as funding challenges, the current position of the law on the matter and some fears about the electoral system.”