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2023: APC Scandinavia supports public hearing on diaspora voting

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The All Progressives Congress (APC), in Scandinavian countries, has lent its voice to the call for the National Assembly for a legislation on Diaspora voting, ahead of the 2023 Presidential Election.

Mr Lawal Ayoola, Chairman, APC, in the Scandinavian countries, who made the group’s position known on Sunday, said the demand was against the backdrop of the upcoming planned Public Hearing by the Senate on Constitutional Review.

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The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), recalls that Sen.Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Senate President and Chairman, of the Steering Committee of the Constitution Review Panel, on Thursday, said the panel sub-committees, were expected to submit their reports by next week.

Omo-Agege urged Nigerians at home and Diaspora, who had already submitted their memoranda to the panel, to be prepared to speak on the documents at the forthcoming public hearing.

Ayoola in a statement on Sunday, that the national assembly should ensure that Nigerians in Diaspora were allowed to vote in the 2023 Presidential Election.

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He said that although Nigerians abroad had made inputs in the ongoing constitutional review in Nigeria, their demand to be allowed to vote should not be jettisoned by the panel in its submissions.

“There are so many Nigerians abroad who wish to participate in governance processes in their home countries, and only legislations empowering them to do so can enable it.

“Diaspora voting has been in practice in other countries, including Ghana, so if those countries can manage it, Nigeria also has everything it takes to make it realisable and manage it effectively,” he said.

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Ayoola said that the sense of belonging, derived from being allowed to vote in Nigeria’s future elections would be unquantifiable for diaspora Nigerians.

“We are all interested in who handles the affairs of the country for the betterment of our families, friends and relations in Nigeria, hence the need for our voices to he heard via votes,” he said.

The APC Scandinavia countries chairman further said that speeding up the legislation process ahead of 2023, would give ample time to Nigeria’s electoral body to fine tune arrangements and fulfill the dreams of Nigerians abroad who wished to vote.

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He pointed out that Nigeria had great professionals living abroad, who migrated over years in search of greener pastures and that some of them would be willing to return home to bring their experiences to bear in the nation’s affairs if carried along.

Ayoola commended the national assembly for taking up the onerous task of amending the nation’s constitution, which he said would in turn breed greater returns on development for Nigeria’s citizens, home and abroad.

NAN reports that Diaspora voting is the ability of people who are outside their home country when an election takes place, to exercise their rights to vote.

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Recall that INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, in October 2020, urged the national assembly to amend sections of the Constitution and the Electoral Act (2010 as amended), to enable Nigerians abroad to vote.

The INEC chairman said the commission believed that Nigerians living outside the country should have the right to vote as citizens interested in the affairs of their own country.

Mahmood also said many of them had made considerable contributions to the economy through huge financial inflow to the country, and that Diaspora voting remained consistent with global best practices.

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Also, Senate Committee on Diaspora and Non-Governmental Organisations, in October 2020, visited the leadership of INEC to make a case for Nigerians in Diaspora, to be part of the electoral process, and to exercise their franchise.
Sen. Rose Oko, Chairman of the committee, who led members on a visit to INEC, had advised the commission to consider enabling Nigerians in Disapora to vote.

She assured that the committee would do everything possible to facilitate the amendment of the relevant sections of the Electoral Act, to accommodate people living outside the country in the electoral process.

NAN also recalls that the House of Representatives on December 2020, passed for third reading, a proposed Bill on Diaspora voting in subsequent elections in the country.

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The Bill sponsored by Rep. Tolulope Akande-Sadipe and 15 others, sought to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, Cap. 23 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

The bill sought to amend Section 77, Subsection (2), of the Principal Act, to now read “Every citizen of Nigeria, who has attained the age of 18 years residing within or outside Nigeria, at the time of registration of voters for purposes of election to a Legislative house, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter for that election”.

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