Diaspora voting, permanent seats…5 things to note about Nwoko’s proposal

Sharon EboesomiJuly 10, 20236 min

One month into the life of the Tenth National Assembly, Delta Senator, Ned Nwoko is bringing back the conversations on Diaspora voting and a more inclusive parliament to Nigeria’s legislative discourse.

 

READ ALSO: Reps vow to re-introduce Diaspora Voting Bill

 

 

 

For several years, Nigerians in the Diaspora have continued to clamour for the right to vote, which is currently impossible under the electoral laws and the constitution.

In Africa’s largest democracy, with a huge Diaspora population, millions of citizens are deprived of the opportunity to contribute to the leadership recruitment process despite their huge contributions to the economy.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, as of April 2023, Nigeria ranks fourth among African countries with the number of diasporans outside the continent. The AfDB notes that Nigeria’s Diaspora population moved from 320,000 people in 2000 to about one million in 2020 and adds that the country is one of the major remittance recipient countries in Africa. With an estimated value of $21 billion in 2022, these remittances accounted for almost 20 per cent of the continent’s total value of remittances in both years.

This background, amongst a host of other reasons, perhaps explains the interest of Senator Ned Nwoko (PDP, Delta North) in pushing for a constitutional amendment that will provide opportunities for Nigerian citizens in the diaspora to participate in electoral processes in Nigeria actively.

Senator Nwoko, who disclosed this on his Twitter handle on Saturday, is also aiming at the possibility of these Diasporans having representation in parliament.

Here are five (5) major points of note contained in his proposal

 

  1. Constitutional Amendment

    While the Tenth National Assembly has yet to lay out its legislative agenda, which will traditionally include an alteration to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As amended), the Delta lawmaker has expressed readiness to participate in the process actively.

    “I am seeking an amendment to the constitution that will enable Nigerians in diaspora to participate in electoral processes in Nigeria.”

  2. Voting Rights for Nigerians in the Diaspora

    Not deterred by divergent views and unsuccessful attempts in the past to expand the space for citizen participation in the electoral process, Senator Nwoko wants to see Nigerians in the Diaspora exercise their right to vote in future elections.

    “It is imperative to explore avenues for their active participation in our electoral processes. This seeks to introduce necessary amendments to the Nigerian Constitution, granting Nigerians in the Diaspora the right to vote; the ability to be voted for…”

    READ ALSO: Senate receives 35 Constitution Alteration Bills, set to transmit for assent

     
  3. Permanent seats in the National Assembly

    Not altogether a new concept in our legislative lexicon, the lawmaker is aiming at the amendment of Nigeria’s constitution to make room for Nigerians in the Diaspora not just to be voted for at elections but to have four permanent seats in both chambers of the National Assembly.

    “…To be able to vote and be voted for; To have four permanent seats allocated to them in both chambers one each for Africa, America, Asia and Europe.”

    “This seeks to introduce necessary amendments to the Nigerian Constitution, granting Nigerians in the Diaspora the right to vote; the ability to be voted for, and the establishment of dedicated representation in the legislative chambers.”
     
  4. Move is aimed at exploring their wealth of knowledge, experience and resources

    According to Senator Nwoko, the Nigerian diaspora forms a vital and dynamic part of its global community. Hence, these individuals who maintain deep ties to their homeland possess a wealth of knowledge, experience and resources that can contribute significantly to Nigeria’s growth and development.

    “The Nigerian diaspora, comprised of millions of Nigerians living abroad, forms a vital and dynamic part of our Nation’s Global Community. These individuals maintain deep ties to their homeland and possess a wealth of knowledge, experience and resources that can contribute significantly to Nigeria’s growth and development. In recognising the importance of their engagement, it is imperative to explore avenues for their active participation in our electoral processes.”

    READ ALSO: Constitution Review by the Ninth National Assembly and its setback

     
  5. Nigeria need a more inclusive democracy and more representative parliament

    In the proposal of the federal lawmaker, he expressed his belief that the move, if successful, will foster inclusive democracy and harness the diverse perspectives and talents of Nigeria’s diaspora towards fostering a stronger and more representative Nigeria.

    “…granting Nigerians in the Diaspora the right to vote; the ability to be voted for, and the establishment of dedicated representation in the legislative chambers. By fostering inclusive democracy, we can harness the diverse perspectives and talents of our diaspora, fostering a stronger and more representative Nigeria.”

It is important to note that while the benefits of this proposal and the possibility of its success are different conversations altogether, the lawmaker will have to do the hard work of drafting this proposal (if he hasn’t done so) into a bill (constitution alteration bill), lobby his colleagues and follow it through the first, second and and third reading in the National Assembly.

On the whole, the proposed piece of legislation (every constitution alteration bill) will have to go through eight stages viz; Gazetting of Bill, first Reading, second reading, Committee consideration and report, third reading, harmonisation by the National Assembly Joint Conference Committee, passage by a two-thirds majority of Nigeria’s thirty-six State Assemblies and assent by the President, for Nigerians in the diaspora to smile at the next polls.

 

 

READ ALSO: Constitutional Amendment: Open Letter to Senate President, Ahmad Lawan

Sharon Eboesomi

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