2023: Senate, Reps to include diaspora voting in 1999 constitution – Vanguard
By Tordue Salem
President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has assured of pushing for the inclusion of Diaspora voting in the 1999 Constitution.
In separate meetings with the Chairman, Nigerian Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa the helmsmen of the National Assembly, gave the assurance, during the official presentation of a Compendium titled “600 Diaspora icons at 60” by Mrs Dabiri-Erewa.
Ahmed Lawan stressed the Assembly’s “commitment to the welfare and well-being of Nigerians living anywhere in the Diaspora”.
Senator Lawan commended “the doggedness, passion and determination” of the NIDCOM Boss in bringing Diaspora issues to the front burner right from her days in Parliament and now as Chairman/CEO, NIDCOM.
On DiasporaVoting, Senator Lawan said he is optimistic that “one day and soon enough, Nigerians anywhere in the world would freely exercise their franchise”.
This position was corroborated by the Deputy Senate President Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, emphasising that the National Assembly is working with the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) to put mechanisms that will ensure Nigerians anywhere in the world would freely vote.
The Senate President also gave assurances that the 9the Senate is the Nigerian Senate that ensures Bills that are people-centred are considered and passed.
Senator Lawan promised to support NIDCOM in its enormous task of engaging the Diaspora especially with the adoption and ratification of the National Diaspora Policy in tandem with Nigeria’s Foreign Policy.
Presenting the Compendium, NIDCOM Boss Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa said it is a compilation of extraordinary and exceptional exploits of Nigerians in Diaspora in different sectors though the list is endless.
Hon Dabiri-Erewa further said NIDCOM is primarily building trust with the Nigerian Diaspora global Community to fast track investment back home through various Programmes.
For instance, the National Diaspora Investment Summit has attracted over 300 Nigerians investing in different sectors of the economy.
According to her, other Programmes include Diaspora Door of Return, Diaspora Data Mapping, Diaspora Portal Mechanism, Diaspora Lecture Series, Annual National Diaspora Day, and appointment of 33 Diaspora Focal Point Officers across the States, among others.
Gbajabiamila on his part also assured legislative work on Diaspora voting and support for NiDCom
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has assured that the Green Chamber would work comprehensively on the issue of Diaspora voting.
He said being a constitutional matter, the House would be very thorough in the process of working on the Bill seeking to empower Nigerians abroad to vote during the country’s elections.
He noted that the issue of Diaspora voting has been on the front burner for a long time, the Speaker said it requires a constitutional amendment, as “…the constitution talks about those who reside in Nigeria.
“Since the Bill is before us, the constitutional amendment will allow us to draw up a detailed, comprehensive law. It’s going to be tough and complicated because we are still having election issues even within, but Nigerians abroad are not any less Nigerian than we are.
“We will deal with all the issues and hopefully harmonize with the Senate when it’s time for harmonization”.
Gbajabiamila expressed satisfaction with the concept behind the +600 Nigerians in Diaspora Icons Compendium compiled by the commission, saying “This is very exciting; what it does is, it encourages Nigerians abroad and it encourages those that are not there to do better”.
According to him, “This just underscores the fact that there are so many Nigerians out there doing amazing things, and we must encourage and celebrate them because if you don’t tell the good side of your story, nobody is going to tell it for you. Bad news sells faster than good news, that’s why I was excited about this,”.
The Speaker also urged the commission to consider going beyond the compendium by looking at how to further encourage others on how to strive to be part of those listed in the compendium, while assuring NiDCom of further parliamentary support to enhance its work.
In her response, Dabiri-Erewa, who had earlier sought the support of the Speaker for Diaspora voting, disclosed that the commission is set to organize a Diaspora Award in 2022 while adding that though it is a continuous process, the benchmark for those on the list was based on merit for excelling in their chosen fields.
“We believe that in our two years of existence, we’ve been able to justify the reason for setting up of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission. Today, we have a Diaspora policy that gives the country the short, medium and long-term plans to fulfil the issues as they affect the Diaspora,” she said.
Vanguard News Nigeria