Ijaw Diaspora Council is advocating a review of Nigeria’s laws to allow political participation of Nigerian citizens resident abroad in general elections. President of the Ijaw group, Prof Mony Gold, made the call at a virtual town hall meeting put together by Global Nigeria Diaspora Forum for presidential aspirants ahead of the 2023 elections.
Gold said it was regrettable that Nigerian citizens in Diaspora make economic contributions by their remittances that boost the nation’s economy but were denied political participation by voting.
He noted that the leadership of Nigerians in diaspora is organising a series of 12 town hall meetings for presidential aspirants starting with Prof Kingsley Moghalu to get their commitments to actualising the long overdue diaspora voting.
According to Gold, the Global Nigeria Diaspora Forum (GNDF) has written to leading presidential candidates in the 2023 elections to make a case for review of the extant laws to allow diaspora voting in future elections after 2023.
Gold observed that diaspora voting would harness the contribution of millions of Nigerians who would bring ideas for the socioeconomic development of their Nigerian homeland.
He said that Nigerians in diaspora have been excluded by structural and systemic inequities in Nigeria that have kept certain groups from having a fair chance at upward mobility for decades.
“That is why we are appealing to all Nigerians around the world to assist in the removal of persons with leadership duties and the reorganisation of institutions that have contributed to injustice, instability, unfairness, and nepotism.
“Our economy will not grow continuously unless economic opportunities and gains are shared equitably among the citizens: workers, business owners, and business leaders.
“We can never abandon the bonds that tie us to our home country. Therefore, we must collaborate to remove barriers to voting and prepare folks to exercise their right to vote.
“Despite its importance millions of Nigerians are denied access to this right in numerous countries throughout the world.
“The right to vote is seen as a fundamental right in most world democracies, as it allows citizens to influence government decision-making.
“Many democracies have put in place procedures to ensure that this right is fully realised and enjoyed by their qualifying citizens, to varying degrees.
“For instance, external voting by post was included in the electoral legislation enacted in Zimbabwe after the country gained its independence in 1980.
“The 1990 constitution, which was updated in 2004, allows Mozambican residents living abroad to vote in their home countries. Cape Verde is a small island nation off the coast of Africa.
“The right to vote by Cape Verdeans residing abroad was enshrined in the constitution in 1992. Despite their geographical distances, approximately 100,000 South Africans voted in 78 countries in the 1994 South African election,” Gold said.
He also said that Kenya extended voting rights to its estimated 3 million residents residing abroad in 2010 to join a growing list of African and other foreign governments that have done so.
He said that following extensive consultations amongst Nigerians in diaspora, their leadership has reviewed its strategy for political engagement which has been stretched into the transnational sphere.
Moghalu, a diplomat and former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria who addressed participants at the inaugural forum pledged to drive a review to allow diaspora voting.
Moghalu who is aspiring to fly the flag of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) for position of President in the 2023 polls noted that it was unjust to exclude Nigerian in diaspora who sacrifice their earning to support the domestic economy.
He unfolded his economic blueprint to the diaspora audience and said that he hopes to leverage on their expertise to ensure rapid economic recovery of Nigeria.