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Buhari, resubmit Diaspora Vote Bill or sign executive order, Lawyer insists

Offers to meet CEO Dabiri in USA to discuss modalities for Diaspora Voting

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The chairman of US-Nigeria Law Group, Attorney Emmanuel Ogebe, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to resubmit the Diaspora Vote Bill or sign executive order to that effect.

Attorney Ogebe made the demand in response to a letter from the Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

Voters in Nigeria will go to the polls to elect a new president and parliament in February 2023 but hopes that Nigerians in diaspora would take part were dashed when only 29 senators out of the 92 present during plenary supported the provision.

Only 29 senators supported the provision to allow Nigerians abroad to vote in national polls but for a constitutional bill to pass, it requires the support of at least two-thirds of the 109-member Senate.

The decision prompted US-Nigeria Law Group to approach the Nigerian Government for amendment in the country’s constitution to accommodate diaspora voting.

In response to the request to President Buhari for facilities that will enable diaspora voting, NIDCOM’s Dabiri-Erewa wrote Ogebe through one A. Bello.

Human Rights lawyer, Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe of the U.S. Nigeria Law Group
Human Rights lawyer, Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe of the U.S. Nigeria Law Group

The letter stressed that “there is no enabling law backing the Diaspora Voting and unfortunately the National Assembly rejected the bill to amend the Constitution in order to provide for Diaspora Voting”.

It reads:

RE: Lawyer writes FGN-Diaspora Commision should secure our voting rights or face sanctions

In response to your observation, it is important to bring to your attention the mandate of the Nigeriens in Diaspora Commission to enable you to make a more informed and legal-based observation.

According to the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (Establishment) Act 2017, the mandate of the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission is to “provide for the engagement of Nigerians in Diaspora in the policies, projects and participation (sic) in the development of Nigeria and for the purpose of utilizing the human capital and material resources of Nigerians toward the overall socio-economic, cultural and political development of Nigeria

Following the above provision, the Commission has been a strong advocate of Diaspore Voting and the Chairman/CEO has continuously reiterated the importance and need for the involvement of all the Nigerian Diaspora in voting. NIDCOM under the stewardship of Hon, Abike Dabiri-Erewa over the years has championed the cause of Diaspora Voting and defended same even to the highest legislative arm of government, the National Assembly.

Presently there is no enabling law backing the Diaspora Voting and unfortunately the National Assembly rejected the bill to amend the Constitution in order to provide for Diaspora Voting. For the rights to be fully established, it is necessary for due process to be followed and for all Stakeholders to lobby the parliament to do the needful.

Once the law is amended to provide for this, the Commission will not hesitate with all hands on deck and all machinery put in place to immediately bring about the implementation of the right of the Nigerian Diaspora to vote.

On the delay of issuance of passport and visas and all Immigrations (sic) matters, it is worthy to note that it was the advocacy of the Commission that led the Nigerian Immigration to the issuance of 10 years Passport and Visa on Arrival Policies in other (sic) to mitigate the hardship of Nigerians coming home from the Diaspora. The Nigerian Immigration Service also graciously approved an immigration Officer/Desk to the commission to address such issues.

With regards to the remittances, NIDCOM acknowledges the laudable efforts of the Nigerians in Diaspora for their immense contributions to national development through remittances. Thus NIDCOM has appreciated the Nigerians in Diaspora and is doing everything to celebrated them (sic) and bring to national consciousness.

NIDCOM will continue to execute its mandate effectively in accordance with our Establishment Act and the National Diaspora Policy.

As a learned gentleman, we will advise dialogue rather than threats in national discuss (sic) as Nigeria belongs to both those at home and the Diaspora. We therefore invite you to visit with NIDCOM whenever you are in Nigeria for better understanding of its mandate and activities.

Please accept the assurances of the Commission’s best regards.

A. Bello
For Chairman/CEO

In response to NIDCOM, Ogede requested Buhari to resubmit diaspora vote bill or sign executive order and offered to meet Dabiri in USA to discuss modalities for diaspora voting.

Ogede wrote in part:

“If someone of your stature as former chair of the Diaspora Commission in NASS was unable to get the Diaspora Voting Bill through with both legislative chambers controlled by the ruling party, then it is likely lack of priority by the administration.

“I suggest therefore that you ask the president to re-present the bill as an executive bill if not already one.

“Secondly, I acknowledge the invitation to visit NIDCOM but unfortunately I have no immediate plans to travel to Nigeria.

“However, as you usually accompany the President to the UN General Assembly, I am available to meet you in New York or Washington within 36 hours of your confirming a meeting.

“My colleagues and I will confer and respond more fully to your letter below but I wanted to quickly explore the option of meeting here if you are around so we can better understand the encumbrances to diaspora voting which is far overdue and how to overcome same.” Read more.

In a December 8, 2018, report, News Band quoted Dabiri-Erewa as ruling out the possibility of voting for Nigerians in Diaspora in 2019 general elections.

Dabiri-Erewa had made the assertion while playing host to the Rwanda High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Stanislas Kamazi, in Abuja.

She, however, said that the Federal Government was making necessary efforts to ensure that Nigerians in the Diaspora exercise their voting rights.

On Jul 29, 2022, another News Band reported that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, the Chief Whip of the Senate said that Nigerians in the diaspora will soon be able to vote from their countries of residence.

He spoke in Maryland when he met Nigerians living in the United States of America at the home of Hon. Emeka Eboe.

Kalu assured that the next national assembly will fashion a way to actualise diaspora voting to accommodate millions of Nigerians living outside the country.

 

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