Confab committee okays Diaspora voting in 2015

Semiu Salami
Semiu Salami

The National Conference Committee on Foreign Policy and Diaspora has said that the 1999 Constitution should be amended to allow Nigerians in the Diaspora to vote during elections in the country.

Before now, Nigerians living in foreign countries are not allowed to vote during elections and they have been clamouring for the amendment of the Electoral Act with a view to enabling them to vote.

While presenting the report of the committee to the conference on Tuesday in Abuja, its Chairman, who is also a former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, said these set of Nigerians should be allowed to vote.

The committee, according to Gambari, recommended that the fundamental rights of Nigerians in the Diaspora to vote in the country’s elections should be safeguarded.

“We support the demand by Nigerians in the Diaspora to be allowed to vote in elections. We recommend that the provision of the constitution should be amended to provide for Diaspora voting,” he said.

Gambari observed that skilled and experienced Nigerians in the Diaspora were making valuable contributions to the economies of their host countries.

He said that the expertise and entrepreneurship of Nigerians in the Diaspora could be deployed creatively for the development of the country if properly leveraged on.

The former UN envoy said that Nigerians in the Diaspora sent over $21bn as remittances to Nigeria in 2012. “Although, the exact amount of these remittances is unknown, as not all of them are sent through official banking channels, the remittances outstrip foreign aids sent by Western donors to the continent,” he said.

Quoting a World Bank Report, Gambari said about $60bn was sent to Africa as remittance in 2013 with Nigeria alone receiving over $21bn in 2012.

The chairman said that in its report to the conference, the committee also recommended the establishment of a Diaspora Commission as requested by about 30 million Nigerians in the Diaspora.

He said that Nigerian embassies abroad could not effectively cater for this huge population without a commission.

Gambari said the committee also recommended that the Federal Government should make the welfare and security of its citizens at home and abroad the centre-piece of its foreign policy.

It also recommended that Nigeria should restore its relations with neighbouring countries particularly in the area of defence, but should not align with any power bloc.

The committee proposed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be the principal and focal point in the formulation, advice and implementation of the country’s foreign policy.

Follow Us