By Fortune Abang
Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Worldwide (NIDOWW) has reiterated the need for equal opportunity to be given to diasporas vote and be voted for in election as citizens of Nigeria.
NIDOWW comprise Nigerians in Diaspora organisations chapter in Europe, Americas, Asia, Oceania and Africa, which harness, galvanise professional and financial resources of Nigerian citizens across continents to promote growth of their fatherland.
Nigerians in the diaspora spoke during a virtual conference with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja.
They spoke against the backdrop of a Bill for an Act to alter provisions of 1999 Constitution (as amended) on Diaspora voting and for related matters.
The Coordinating Chairman of NIDOWW, Mr Linus Unamadu, decried recent move by the 9th Senate to reject diaspora vote and special seat for women.
Unamadu, also Chairman of NIDO-Oceania said: “We really need to know what the fears of our legislators are about the Bill, such that they want to leave us behind.
“Voting is a birthright, it is something that makes you a citizen of a country; we all have that privilege, so why are our elected government officials not giving us equal opportunity?
“Looking at Diasporas effort and contribution to our country, the Federal Government need to recognise NIDO as the flag bearers of Nigeria and all we are asking for is equal opportunity to vote.
“We call on the National Assembly (NASS) to review its policy and give Nigerians in Diaspora opportunity to be able to vote,” he said.
In the same vein, Mr Obed Monago, outgoing Chairman NIDO-Americas said: “The ninth Session of NASS have missed opportunity to have their names written in gold on diaspora affairs.
“They still have the opportunity to rewrite their will, because now is the time to do the right things, voting right is like a fundamental right of aren’t to feed their children.
“We urge government to recognise Diasporas and give them the opportunity to be part of the electoral processes and governance in Nigeria,” he said.
Also speaking, the Chairman NIDO-Europe, Dr Bashir Obasekola, said: “Diaspora voting would help to give Nigeria citizens abroad the much needed sense of belonging.
“Voting is a fundamental human right, therefore, our request for it; since the constitution allows that, it is left for INEC to perfect electoral system and create room to tackle technical issues.
“Therefore, the need for constitution to be amended, to allow us undertake the task of voting’ NASS should reinvent its decision to allow Diasporas participate fully in election.”
On his part, Prof. Apollos Nwauwa, Chairman of Nigerian Diaspora Movement (NDM), said: “It is not the responsibility of Diasporas to fight for this.
“It is the duty of government to find ways to bring millions of the nation’s citizens living overseas to be part of its programmes.”
Meanwhile, Dr Ezekiel Macham, former Vice President of NIDO-Americas Board of Trustee, defined Diasporas voting in election to be their fundamental right.
“When you look at smaller countries in Africa that allow their own Diasporas to vote, you wonder why we should be denied in a bigger country like Nigeria, our fatherland.
“Ghana, Rwanda and some smaller countries allow their citizens abroad to vote, I do not know why they should deny us.”
NAN recalls that the Senate March 2, 2022, rejected changes to the constitution to allow citizens abroad to vote in national elections.
Also rejected was a provision to allocate special seats for women to increase their political representation.
Only 29 Senators of the 92 present at plenary supported the provision to allow Nigerians abroad to vote in national polls.
For a constitutional bill to pass, it requires the support of at least two-thirds of the 109-member Senate. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)