By Modupe Seriboh
Ibadan – The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has urged the National Assembly to quicken the amendment of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act.
Yakubu made the call in Ibadan on Wednesday, at an International Conference organised by the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan.
The theme of the conference is “Enfranchising the African Diaspora: Comparing Notes across Sub-Saharan Africa.’’
Yakubu was represented by a National Commissioner of INEC, Prof. Anthonia Simbinne.
He said that the conference was organised to underscore the importance of the card reader and electronic voting towards deepening the electoral process and allowing Diaspora voting.
The chairman said that although the 2015 elections cost approximately N100 billion, conducting Diaspora voting in the next 18 months would gulp millions of dollars.
He explained that Diaspora voting would start with registration of Nigerians in Diaspora.
“The commission is ready for Diaspora voting, but problematic issues related to Diaspora voter registration components must be resolved,’’ he said.
Yakubu said that there was the need for deeper and further consultations with stakeholders in as much as the Diaspora voting was desirable and possible.
“It is important to state categorically that the commission is committed to implementing any and every activity that will improve the electoral process and accessibility of franchise to all Nigerians.
“The introduction of card reader and electronic voting has led to instances where polls have had to be cancelled due to non-use of smart card reader,’’ he said.
In her address, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said that the discussion about Diaspora could no longer be relegated.
Represented by her Special Assistant on Media, Abdulraham Balogun, she said that there was the need to examine certain dynamics, intricacies and realities of the Nigerian Diaspora.
According to Daburu-Erewa, there are several ways African nations can move to enfranchise their Diaspora when adequate legislative frameworks have been affirmed.
“I do not propose an absolute or sweeping legislative framework. The political climate of individual nations should dictate the texture of the policy formulation,’’ she said.
The Head, Diaspora and Transnational Studies, Institute of African Studies, Dr Senayon Olaoluwa, said that the conference was organised to attend to the political needs of Nigerians in Diaspora.
Olaoluwa said that the place of the Diaspora on their homeland development could no longer be undermined.
The Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, said that the institution had continued to offer leadership by being the first to have a programme focusing on the Diaspora and Transnational Studies.
Olayinka said that African Diaspora could not continue to be pushed to the margin.
He said that African Diaspora had taken the centre stage in the transformation of Africa in politics and economy as well as social fronts.