London—Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Tuesday explained why Nigerians in the diaspora cannot vote in the upcoming February 2023 elections, Premium Times reports.
Responding to a question about diaspora voting in the United Kingdom, he said although the electoral body subscribes to it, the Nigerian law makes it impossible for such category of citizens to vote in the nation’s elections.
He said: “The position of law remains; unless you are resident in Nigeria, you cannot register and you cannot vote.
“However I am absolutely convinced that it is only a matter of time when this will be achieved.”
He narrated that the commission maintains an open-door policy and has collaborated with different diaspora groups to the point when the proposition for diaspora voting was sent to the National Assembly for deliberation where it was defeated.
The issue of diaspora voting has been an ongoing conversation and was among the issues thrown up for deliberation at the constitution review hearings last year.
In March 2022, the National Assembly struck out the proposal for diaspora voting even when INEC said it was ready.
The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) in September of the same year said it would continue to canvas it.
Diaspora voting allows non-resident Nigerians to vote and choose who leads the country.
“Voting by those in the diaspora should be a settled issue and if you ask me, I will say you are preaching to the converted but the commission does not have the power to make it happen.
“The enabling law will have to be provided for it to happen,” Mr Yakubu noted.
“Not just because of the remittances as people would argue, but because they are citizens and citizens must enjoy rights,” he added.
Nigeria has about 15 to 17 million of its citizens in the diaspora who, according to data from the World Bank and Budget Office of the Federation, remitted $60.22 billion in the last three years to boost economic activities and the nation’s external reserves.
Although not all of them have attained the voting age of 18 in Nigeria, the number constitutes 16 to 18 per cent of the total 93 million voters registered by INEC to vote in this election cycle.