NIGERIA: The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, on Tuesday, spoke in a positive way towards the commission’ expectation on Diaspora voting in Nigeria. He spoke during an interactive meeting in Abuja, when he accepted an invitation to INEC by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia to observe voting by Indonesians in Nigeria, as part of the Asian country’s parliamentary elections.
The Diaspora voting by Indonesians in Nigeria would hold this Saturday 6th April and in Lagos on Sunday at the country’s consular offices.
The voting is part of the country’s parliamentary elections in Mainland Indonesia scheduled for April 9 this year.
H. E. Sudirman Haseng, The Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia, extended the invitation to INEC when he paid a courtesy visit to Professor Jega in Abuja, Nigeria.
According to the envoy,Indonesia has a total population of about 240 million, out of which 180 million are eligible voters,saying that,” the diaspora voting is applicable only to the Jakarta constituency in the parliamentary election.
He added that besides the parliamentary election, Indonesians would go to the poll for presidential election on July 7 this year.
In his reply, the INEC Chairman, Professor Jega commended the Ambassador for inviting INEC to observe the diaspora voting; noting that Nigeria has a lot to learn from Indonesia’s electoral experience.
“In Nigeria, we are doing our best to open up our system for citizens in the diaspora to be able to vote. Unfortunately, there are presently legal inhibitions, because our laws prohibit diaspora voting. This is not directly so; but there is a provision in our laws that requires every eligible person to cast their ballot at the polling unit where they have registered as a voter. The implication is that for people in the diaspora to participate in our elections, they will have to come home to register as voters, and subsequently cast their votes at the polling units where they registered.
“But we have made recommendations to the National Assembly for an amendment of that provision so as to allow people in the diaspora to vote; and we are hopeful that our recommendation will be taken on board. It is good to know that Indonesia does it, because we are looking out for the best model that can be adapted to our country when the time comes,” he said
The INEC Chairman added that conducting elections in a country like Nigeria was quite challenging; but he restated the commission’s confidence that, given the ongoing preparations, the 2015 general election would be much better than 2011 and would comply with global best standards.
The Presidency on numerous occasions had indicated their support for Nigerians in Diaspora to participate in electing their leaders. The changes required is legal and only minor to the needs of Diaspora whom have been contributing more than $20 billion yearly towards the development of the country through remittances and other projects.