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We won’t give up on Diaspora voting

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has said notwithstanding the fact that diaspora voting will not happen in the 2023 general elections, she will not give up in pushing for it to become a reality.

She said this at the press conference to herald the 16th Edition of the Nigerian National Diaspora Day celebration 2022, and 4th to be hosted by the Commission with the theme: Diaspora Engagement in Global Challenging Times for National Development, scheduled for July 25.

The National Assembly had in March 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, despite the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), willingness to make it happened.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had estimated that there are approximately 20 million Nigerians living in Diaspora with the USA having the largest Nigerian community put at about 3.4 million in 2020.

She said “we cannot give up on diaspora voting. It is not going to happen in 2023 but it’s going to happen eventually. And I urge all of you (the media) to make it a focal point of discussion so that the National Assembly will do what they have to do and make it possible for the diaspora to vote.

“We can’t be talking about billions of dollars of remittances without giving you the right to extend your civic duty. So we it’s not something we should relent on. It’s something that we should continue to advocate for. And I believe that someday, the diaspora will vote.“

Asked how the hurdle to the passage of the bill can be crossed, the NIDCOM chair said: “So we have to continue to lobby beg, plead for parliament to see the need for the Diaspora voting and also, all of you media make it a topic of discussion. It also it’s something that should happen. It’s something that has to happen. But the argument is that we haven’t even perfected  it locally. And then why do you want to start Diaspora voting?

But my argument is that if you’re waiting for perfection, then nothing will happen. You know, INEC is ready and in a world that now we are doing electronic transmission of results, it is possible. So it’s just to engage with the National Assembly more.”

She advised the diaspora in the country for the conference to use the opportunity their visit to engage with the National Assembly to make them see the need for diaspora voting.

She said: “Like I said, even as you are here, NIDO UK south reach out to the Parliament, which will be part of your engagements as well, but we’ll keep at it. And hopefully, the parliament will someday decide that it’s possible for you to vote.

“All the excuses there are answers for them. So let’s just keep engaging, keep lobbying and keep reading for the National Assembly until they see the need for diaspora to vote.”

Speaking more on the importance of the event,

Dabiri-Erewa, said this year’s theme is to make the best use of the difficult times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia War, national insecurity among others, to leveraging on Nigerians in the Diaspora for National Development and growth.

In her remarks, Chairman, NIDO UK South Chapter and Representative of NIDO Europe, Susan Wayas, notwithstanding the global challenges, “we have the obligation to individually and collectively rise to the occasion in the interest of the survival and growth of our respective nations. No doubt Nigerians in the diaspora have become a critical component of this country’s development strides.”

She commended NiDCOM for successfully midwifing the launching of the nation’s first national Diaspora policy.

“This step is an indication of the government’s interest in engaging the diaspora in promoting national development.

“Looking at statistics and other indicators available, Nigerians in diaspora have great potential  in terms of resources and expertise in various fields to contribute positively to the development of the Fatherland. What is required, however, is a creation of the necessary platform and environment to consolidate on the gains already been made.

“Already NiDCOM has started taking the right steps through the creation of a medium like this for constructive engagement of Nigerians in the diaspora.

“For NIDO Europe, we assure you that we are ready to cooperate with you towards the realisation of targeted goals. And that we are ready.

We are committed to building and sustaining the existing strong economic and cultural ties with our home country, Nigeria.”

According to her, in 2018 alone, the Nigerian diaspora in the United Kingdom, were responsible for the remittance of over £2.8 billion to Nigeria. “This accounted for 1% of the country’s GDP during that period in 2018. This we can tell you is double and triple that amount. This is singular data from the World Bank is a pointer to the importance the UK based Nigerian diaspora attached to national development.

“I have no doubt that remittance inflow from the UK has been on steady increase subsequently. Moving forward, it is our hope that the government would rise to the challenge of insecurity that has bedevilled this country. “This is because no development can strive in an atmosphere of chaos and threat to the sanctity of lives and property of citizens.

“Closely related are the problems of corruption, lack of infrastructure, rising religious intolerance, perceived domination, or marginalisation of some ethnic groups by others, etc. There is no doubt that combinations of these factors  constitute a serious threat to the aspirations of our people at home and abroad towards the desired unity for nation building.”

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