Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Nigerian Independent Election Commission (INEC), explained on Tuesday why Nigerians in the diaspora cannot vote in the upcoming February 2023 elections.

Responding to a question about diaspora voting in a speech at Chatham House, London, UK, he said that although the electoral body endorses it, Nigerian law makes it impossible for such citizens to vote in national elections.

PREMIUM TIMES had previously published Mr. Yakubu’s full speech which he delivered during his session at Chatham House.

“The position of the law remains; Unless you are a Nigerian resident, you cannot register or vote,” she said.

However, “I am absolutely convinced that it is only a matter of time before this is achieved,” Mr. Yakubu added.

He narrated that the commission maintains an open door policy and has collaborated with different diaspora groups to the point that the diaspora ballot proposal was sent to the National Assembly for deliberation where it was defeated.

Efforts to obtain a legal framework

The issue of the diaspora vote has been an ongoing conversation and was one of the topics debated at the constitution review hearings last year.

In March 2022, the National Assembly removed the diaspora ballot proposal even as INEC said it was ready.

The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) in September of the same year said it would continue to search for him.

Diaspora voting allows non-resident Nigerians to vote and choose who leads the West African country.

“Voting for those in the diaspora should be a settled issue and if you ask me, I will tell you that they are preaching to the converted, but the commission does not have the power to make it happen. Enabling law will have to be provided for this to happen,” Mr. Yakubu noted.

“Not only because of the remittances, as people would say, but because they are citizens and citizens should enjoy rights,” he added.

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Nigeria has between 15 and 17 million of its citizens in the diaspora who, according to data from the World Bank and the Federation Budget Office, remitted US$60.22 billion in the last three years to boost the economic activities and foreign reserves of the nation.

Although not all have reached the age of 18 to vote in Nigeria, the number constitutes 16 to 18 percent of the total 93 million voters registered by INEC to vote this election cycle.

Yakubu joins the list of people directly connected to the upcoming election to speak at Chatham House, a London-based think tank.

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Others who had had speech sessions there are the presidential candidate of the ruling party Congress of all progressives (APC), tinubou ball and his counterpart from the Labor Party, Pedro Obi.

Two other candidates, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), are also expected to speak there.

Nigeria’s presidential election is due to take place on February 25 and a total of 18 candidates are scheduled to contest next month’s elections, but only four of them are believed to have a chance of winning. The four are Messrs. Obi, Tinubu, Kwakwanso and Abubakar.

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