By: Temitope Ponle
Abuja – Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chief Executive Officer, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM). has urged the National Assembly to enact a bill that would enable Nigerians in diaspora to vote in whatever country they reside.
Dabiri-Erewa said this when she appeared before the House of Representatives committee on Diaspora, chaired by Rep. Tolulope Akande-Sadipe (APC-Oyo), to defend the commission’s 2020 budget on Tuesday.
The NIDCOM chairperson also urged the legislators to amend the law to make electronic voting possible.
“Diaspora voting is in your hands and I think it will be a legacy that you can leave. It does not have to be in 2023 but put a timeframe to when they can vote. It is something we owe Nigerians in diaspora.
“The smaller countries are doing it so I see no reason we cannot do it. And if the law comes into effect you can put the bill at the discretion of INEC so if they say you can do it in the UK, you go ahead and do it.
“I also think it will have a positive impact on voting in Nigeria. We are also hoping that you are going to amend the law to make electronic voting possible”
“We are talking about remittance of billions, we are talking about people developing economies of the world; they should be able to vote in the country they reside and this will be a major thing the committee on diaspora can do.”
According to Dabiri-Erewa, the bill could be modified to start off in a few countries at a time before taking off in other countries, it “is a legacy you will be leaving for Nigeria and Nigerians in diaspora”.
She also urged the committee to intervene in the issue of diaspora remittances.
“The issue of remittances, you have to intervene.
There is a discrepancy. The World Bank says 26 billion dollars but Central Bank of Nigeria says it is 2.6 billion dollars.
“There is something wrong somewhere and parliament has to intervene,” she said.
She disclosed that the creation of the commission and the committee on diaspora had addressed the situation of Nigerians stranded in Libya.
“For instance, for the first time President Buhari brought back Nigerians from Libya; he set up a delegation and got planes to get them back. It never happened.
Dabiri-Erewa added that the commission would set up help lines to enable Nigerians in distress call the commission.
“We hope to set up, very soon, our help lines so you can call at anytime. We are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make this happen because communication is key.
“We will be sending the committee all these interventions and we will also be sending to the ministry as well for you to know what is going on and where it goes beyond our power”
”We will hand it over to both the ministry and commission. I believe that there is a lot we can work together on.”
On Nigerian returnees the NIDCOM boss said that the commission had been working with states to track the progress of the returnees.
“All we did was to break down those who returned into the various states and 16 states had returnees from diaspora.
“A lot of returnees went back to their states, we booked them to states and we have their phone numbers because MTN and Airtel gave us SIM cards and phones.
“So we contact every of the returnees; while some have switched off some unfortunately have left Nigeria to some other places.
“Most of the states have actually contacted their returnees; they include: Imo, Amambra, Ogun, Delta, Edo, Oyo, Abia, Ekiti, Lagos and Kwara,
Others are: Osun, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Katsina, Ebonyi, Rivers, Kogi, Benue and Nasarawa.
“Imo had the highest and they received them all, over 131. We are monitoring the states and also calling. We actually try to be in touch with all of them.”
She however, urged the committee to support the commission with more funding.