The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, during the Diaspora Voting Stakeholders Workshop in Abuja said that constitutional amendment is needed before Nigerians in Diaspora can be allowed to vote.
Mr Gbajabiamila said that millions of Nigerians, who resided outside the country, had as much a stake in the present and future of Nigeria as those who lived in the country.
He also said that “Nigerians abroad use their resources to develop businesses and support family members here at home; they invest in their communities and support national development, so it is not strange that they are seeking to participate in the electoral process”
“But, before allowing Diaspora voting, there is a need to plan well by first understanding the nuances, intricacies and the hurdles in front, before considering Diaspora voting if Nigeria will get it right”, he further explained.
However, he said that there was a need to check if Nigeria was ready for Diaspora voting because the elections conducted here come with a lot of issues and much litigation, afterwards. The topic of Diaspora voting has within a short period of time become a matter of intense public debate; it causes Nigerians to confront the simple, unavoidable reality that is a subject matter for which we must find resolution within the shortest possible time.
Mr Gbajabiamila said that the workshop provided an opportunity for all stakeholders to jointly consider the value of the proposals being currently offered and develop a workable plan of action for policymakers and the general public.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora, Dr Ajibola Bashiru, said that the agenda of the 9th assembly was to work for Nigerians but the issue of Diaspora voting should be a consensus with Nigerians.
Dr Bashiru further said that there was a need to look at what the constitution said about such bills before it would be passed, marking out all the intricate parts to be taken into consideration.
Earlier, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who was represented by Dr Mohammed Lecky, National Commissioner of INEC, said that the commission was ready for Diaspora voting.
Yakubu also said that the commission had a wide range of first-hand knowledge on how other election management bodies handled issues of Diaspora voting, adding that there was no reason why Nigeria should not practice Diaspora voting.
He said that the commission was convinced that Diaspora voting was the way to go but hurdles like the election to allow diasporas to participate in, logistics, funding, legislation among others still needed to be addressed.