Election 2011: Nigerians in the Diaspora may go to court over voting rights

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Attahiru-Jega
Attahiru-Jega

Nigerians in the Diaspora are calling on the Federal government to retain its earlier position on the issue of Nigerians in the Diaspora voting in the next year’s election.

The former INEC Chairman Maurice  Iwu said late last year that arrangements were on for  trial elections in  about three countries across the world including  United Kingdom and America in 2011.

This followed the issues having been brought to fore by  a combination of Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation and House Committee on the Diaspora who had noted the immense economic contribution Disporans are making to the country and the need for more integration intop the affairs of the country.

President Goodluck Jonathan last July assured Nigerians living abroad that the Federal Government would liaise with the National Assembly to ensure that Nigerians in the Diaspora vote in future elections.

Jonathan had given the assurance in Minna during the opening ceremony of the 4th National Diaspora Conference,  saying  the government was working with the National Assembly on how to effect the plans.

Jonathan had said:`This is essentially a constitutional issue but as a responsible government we shall do everything to promote the fundamental rights of Nigerians wherever they are.

Represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, during the conference,the president  had advised the Diasporans to continue to be good ambassadors of the country by promoting the rebranding campaignadding: ”Let me assure you that as a responsible people-oriented government, we are committed to running an administration which places great premium on the rule of law, transparency and accountability.

“We will prosecute the war against corruption with the will to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that free, fair and creditable elections are conducted in 2011,’’ he said.

“It is our determination to ensure that each vote counts.’ Jonathan had assured.

2011,’’ he said.

“It is our determination to ensure that each vote counts.’’

Jonathan commended Nigerians in the Diaspora for their commitment to the development of the country through their free medical care services to Nigerians, especially for rural dwellers.

In a twist of the previous assurances, Attahiru Jega the new INEC Chairman said  that Nigerians in the Diaspora would not be able to vote  in the election in 2011 election claiming that only their expertise will be required to influence the  credible handling of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

He told a group of Nigerians living abroad who came with their concerns to INEC headquarters last month  in Abuja during a visit that  voters registration in Africa’s largest country is a “formidable test,” and the focus now is how to capture all Nigerians in Nigeria.

“I cannot guarantee outright that in January, you can vote,” the INEC Chairman said, assuring them, however, that the INEC would do its best to engage them as professionals, in the quest for a free and fair ballot, which is achievable only when everyone is involved.

Jega described Nigerians in the Diaspora as very important components in ensuring a free and fair election, and promised that the INEC would deliver.

However, Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation are not taking the denials lightly as they are crossed with the stance.

Speaking recently to EMNnews.com, Chairman of Nigerians In the Diaspora Organisation,  Alistar Soyode, said the new stance would be a big slap on the face of more than 20 million Nigerians living overseas who are eager to contribute to the election come next year.

“It is our civic right and the nation at 50 has got no excuses for sidelining Nigerians living outside who daily contribute to the nation’s economic growth. We are more organised and are willing to make it happen as this is our civic right”, Dr Soyode who is the Chief Executive of Ben television said at the weekend.

Soyode had spoken the mind of millions of Nigerians living abroad who are more passionate and very worried about Nigeria’s current political situation described as appalling, even after 50 years after Independence.

Many pointed to the fact that those who had dictated the political pace in the country are refusing to relinquish power, drawing the nation back many years, claiming Nigerians abroad are embarrassed and very ashamed and are ready to take initiatives.

“The time is now as even in the future, we may never have the opportunity, as the situation in the country needs urgent attention and more engagement by all either home or abroad”, Mr Bayo Egunlae, a legal practitioner and adviser said while speaking to EMNnews.com.

Already, some foreign based legal practitioners are putting heads together to tackle the  government on the matter.

Sources said the government could be engaged in legal battle over the matter as the situation in Nigeria has brought more desperation for participation in the election.