Diaspora voting should be included in new Electoral Act, says TBAN

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ON Wednesday, December 9, 2020, the National Assembly Joint Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, And Electoral Matters held a public hearing on the proposed new Electoral Act.

Jide Akintunde, Executive Director, To Build A Nation (TBAN), said in a statement that wide-ranging important recommendations, including on electronic voting, electronic transmission of results, prosecution of electoral offences, effectuating the ceiling for campaign funding, voter education and continuous registration of voters, were made to the joint committee by INEC and civil society groups that participated.

However, both INEC and the joint committee expressed reservations on the readiness of the country to have diaspora voting. This, therefore, raises concern as to whether the next amendments to the Electoral Act would include provisions that would provide a legislative backing for diaspora voting in the country.

TBAN believes this disposition is regrettable. We believe now is the time to provide a legislative backing for diaspora voting in Nigeria’s elections. There is ample time to operationalise a pilot phase for diaspora voting in the 2023 general election and full implementation from 2027.

Allowing Nigerians abroad to vote in the country’s elections has been on the policy discussion since the early years of the Fourth Republic. It is the extent to which the authorities have not committed to the delivery of key electoral reforms that there has been no progress whatsoever on the diaspora voting agenda. E-voting and electronic transmission of results make diaspora voting much easier to implement.

According to TBAN, Diaspora voting is not a favour to eligible Nigerian voters living abroad. It is an imperative for a number of reasons. One, Nigeria’s democracy needs new blocs of informed voters who are not susceptible to vote-buying by corrupt politicians.

“This is necessary for the country to be able to elect credible and competent leaders,” TBAN said, saying that Nigerian middle class and Nigerians in diaspora are the key new voting blocs.

It added that the government needs to enable all the citizens to perform their civic duty of voting during elections and that Nigerians in diaspora are a key stakeholder bloc, contributing over $20 billion annually in official migrant remittances to support their relatives in the country and the economy.

“Nigeria cannot wait to restore credibility to its elections that have continued to witness fewer people voting from one election to another since 2003. We, therefore, task both the National Assembly and INEC to deliver the legislative and operational frameworks for diaspora voting without further delay,” the statement added.

– Dec. 10, 2020 @ 15:29| GMT |

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