In order to put pressure on the Federal Government to allow Nigerians living abroad vote in future elections, Nigerians in the Diaspora have resolved to forward a petition backed by one million signatures to the Federal Government.
This was part of the resolution of the 2012 Convention of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation in the Americas (NIDOA) – the umbrella organisation for all Nigerians residing in North and South America, including the Caribbean – held at Holiday Inn, Arlington, Virginia.
The resolution came following the remarks made at the convention by the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Aminu Shehu Shagari, that even though the bill on the Diasporan voting rights was passed, he did not believe Nigerians abroad would be able to vote in 2015.
Shagari, who was a panelist at a session on, “Making Diasporan Voting Rights a Reality”, said even though he was fully in support of the bill, he believed the 2015 election was so important to the peace and stability of Nigeria that government might not be willing to experiment with allowing Nigerians abroad to vote.
That remarks attractted reactions from Nigerians at the venue who, in their various contributions, insisted that allowing Nigerians abroad to vote was long overdue, and government ought to have been making preparations toward that since the call predated the current administration.
One of the speakers and Chairman of Nigerian American Agricultural Empowerment Programme (NAAEP), Chief Temitope Ajayi, disagreed with the view that voting by Nigerians abroad in 2015 may affect the integrity of the election, adding that such votes may even be more credible.
Ajayi said for instance, Nigerians living in US do not only have their passports, but also have social security numbers, which could aid easy identification and prevent multiple voting.
She said even though they live outside the nation’s shores, remittances from Nigerians abroad had not only been keeping their relatives at home going, such huge remittances had also been contributing to the development of Nigerian economy.
Secretary, Board of Trustees of NIDOA, Chief Gabe Okoye, drew the attention of the gathering to the fact that the agitation for Diasporan voting rights predated the 2011 elections, and that they were assured then that even though voting by Nigerians abroad may not be feasible in 2011, efforts would be made to make it a reality in 2015.
Okoye therefore moved a resolution that a petition signed by one million out of Nigerians based abroad be sent to government to demand their rights to vote in 2015 election.
The resolution which was unanimousy adopted also included that each signature should be acompanied by $1 donation, which would amount to $1million, to help facilitate lobbying for the realisation of the voting rights.
Okoye said the petition to be signed would be posted online for Nigerians In the Diaspora to append their signatures.
He also disclosed that a memorandum had been sent to the National Assembly Committee on Constitutional Amendment, and the parliament’s leadership to make case for Diasporan voting rights.
A bill aimed at ensuring that Nigerians living abroad vote during general elections failed to scale through second reading last October. The bill to amend the Electoral Act, which was promoted by the House committee on Diaspora chaired by Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, would have authorised voting centres to be set up for Nigerians in other countries during general polls.