Nigeria not yet ready for diaspora voting – Minister

THE Nigerian government says it is committed to ensuring that diaspora voting happens, but hinted that it will not happen in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.

The Minister for State for Foreign Affairs Zubairu Dada made this known on Saturday at the maiden Diaspora Quarterly Lecture on critical issues of concern to Nigerians living abroad, organised by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM).

Dada said having established the fact that Nigerians residing abroad were bona-fide citizens of the country and should therefore be given equal opportunity to participate in the process of governance back at home, relevant stakeholders were working closely to achieve this goal as obtained in other climes.

“The National assembly is working closely with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to fashion a way to actualise diaspora voting. I remain very optimistic that in the not-too-distant future, it should be possible for Nigerians in the diaspora to participate in our national elections, ” the minister said.

The minister further said that the commission was working closely with the National Identity Management Commission and Nigerian Missions abroad to capture the data of Nigerians in the diaspora.

“The success of this critical exercise will depend largely on the cooperation and buy-in of Nigerians in the diaspora,” Dada noted.

He added that the mobilisation of Nigerians in the diaspora for national development had, over time, become more and more pertinent, given the on-going contributions they made towards the growth of the Nigerian economy – six percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The minister also used the occasion to announce the approval of the National Diaspora Policy (NDP) by the Federal Executive Council, whose objective was to harness the potential of diaspora Nigerians in terms of resources, skills and talents for sustainable national development.

The NDP is founded on the existing national policy on migration, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the Federal Government, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

The policy has a strategy to engage, enable and empower Nigerians in the diaspora to contribute their quota to national development on a win-win basis.

Dada also disclosed that plans were underway for the establishment of the Nigerians in Diaspora Investment Fund to further drive development in the country.

In his presentation, Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola disclosed that the ministry had recently approved a special passport intervention exercise known as the mobile enrollment unit, targeted at Nigerians residing in countries – especially in Europe – worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, where the lockdown had grounded economic and social activities.

“This exercise will enable personnel of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) to meet these Nigerians at their places of residence and get them enrolled for their passport renewals,” he explained.

Aregbesola added that the NIS was establishing non-governmental passport support centres in four key international airports namely: the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport Abuja, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos, the Mallam Aminu International Airport Kano and the Port-Harcourt International Airport in Rivers State.

These support centers would enable Nigerians arriving the country on expired passports to have their passports renewed immediately, he noted.

Earlier in her welcome address, Chairman of NIDCOM Abike Dabiri-Erewa said the aim of the Diaspora Quarterly Lecture was to connect Nigerians in the diaspora with opportunities that abound back at home.

“We’re hoping that through this discourse, we will challenge our intellect, our minds and our hearts,” Dabiri-Erewa said.

She assured participants that the quarterly webinar would seek to address issues put forward by Nigerians in the diaspora.

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