By Christiana Ekpa
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has assured that the 9th assembly is committed to the issue of diaspora voting.
Gbajabiamila said millions of Nigerians who strive to make a living outside the country “have as much a stake in the present and future of Nigeria as those of us who live here.”
He noted that after years of struggle on the issue of Diaspora voting, “there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel” under the current National Assembly.
Gbajabiamila spoke at a stakeholders’ workshop organised by the Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council in Abuja on Monday.
The Speaker said, however, that there are challenges that needed to be addressed in the process of coming up with a law that would enable Nigerians abroad vote during elections.
He said there are constitutional hurdles that should be taken into consideration when coming up with a draft law for Nigerians living in other countries to vote.
Saying the country could not afford to do things without planning, Gbajabiamila noted that it was imperative to do the right thing to avoid litigations later.
“I’m saying all this because I want us to make the process a near-perfect one. There are so many issues that surround the issue, and we need to address them. But I am for Diaspora voting,” he said.
He added: “The topic of diaspora voting has within a short time become a matter of intense public debate. This reflects the capacity of our diaspora citizens to influence the content and tone of public policy conversations here at home.
“It also causes us to confront the simple, unavoidable reality that this is a subject matter for which we must find resolution within the shortest possible time.
“It is true that our electoral process in Nigeria is far from perfect. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that we deliver on an electoral system that is faithful to the best expectations of the Nigerian people. We have started that work, and we will succeed in that objective.
“I refuse to accept as some have posited, that our existing limitations are sufficient reason not to attempt to achieve full electoral participation for all our citizens at home and abroad.
“As Speaker of the House of Representatives, I am committed to achieving for all our people a democracy that is broad-based enough to accommodate all the range of voices that exist within our society.
“Our nation’s fortunes are much improved and our best aspirations are much more achievable when we pursue them together, drawing on all the wisdom, diversity of expertise and experience that exist amongst all of us.”