MEMBERS of the National Assembly have 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.
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, the Nigerian government’s statistics show the country has about 17 million citizens in the Diaspora.
According to the ICIR, only 390 federal MPs were present during the plenary on Tuesday, and while 87 votes were cast in favor of Diaspora voting, the bill was defeated by a majority of 269 votes.
According to figures given by the National Assembly, 29 senators and 58 members of the House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that would allow Nigerians to register and vote in their home country during elections, while 62 senators and 240 representatives voted against it.
When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) threw their weight behind the Diaspora Voting Bill to amend Sections 77 and 117 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution to allow Nigerians in the Diaspora to participate in electoral processes, there were high expectations that it would be passed by the National Assembly.
INEC Chairperson Yakubu Mahmood had claimed that Nigerians living abroad make significant contributions to the economy through remittances and should be entitled to vote because Diaspora voting was in line with global best practices.
“INEC is dedicated to allowing Nigerians residing outside the country to have a say in who becomes our leaders at all levels.”
I hope that the legal and constitutional barriers to Nigerians in Diaspora voting would be lifted soon so that all Nigerians, regardless of where they live in the globe, will be able to vote in future elections,” Mahmood added.
Chairperson of NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said her office was working closely with the National Assembly to ensure that Diaspora voting, which is now in use in 119 countries, becomes a reality for Nigerians living abroad.
“Given the enormous contributions of Nigerians in the Diaspora to the Nigerian economy, Nigeria cannot afford to be left out,” she says.
A constitutional bill must receive at least two-thirds of the votes in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass.
The failure of the bill has elicited no response from NIDCOM or INEC.