AS Nigeria gets ready for the 2011 general elections one question that has continually plagued the masses of Nigerian patriots and all who wish the nation well is the issue of the voting rights of over 20 million Nigerians who reside and work in the Diaspora.

Throughout the history of Nigerian electoral processes the Nigerian Diaspora has constantly been denied voting rights, even though most other nations on earth with half Nigeria’s population in the Diaspora have long ensured that their Diaspora are allowed to vote in their elections.

There is even a court judgment in the Hon. Oluwafolajimi Akeem Bello Vs. INEC [suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/370/2007] rendered by Justice Adamu Bello in which the Justice held inter alia 'I believe strongly that the plaintiffs have made a good case and the time is ripe for Nigeria to give its citizens abroad the opportunity to register and vote from abroad in any election in Nigeria without having to travel to Nigeria for that purpose'

There is absolutely no reason under the sun why the Nigerian Diaspora should not vote or be voted for in the forthcoming 2011 elections and any attempt to further disenfranchise them will be resisted and its consequences not be pleasant.

The shame of it all is that the successive governments of Nigeria are always calling on the Nigerian Diaspora to invest in the economy of the nation .It appears that Nigeria needs their money but not their voice.

Nigeria cannot claim lack of funds as hindrance to ensuring that the fundamental rights of Diaspora Nigerians are taken care of, not with the astronomical pays that the National Assembly members allot to themselves.

In many aspects of human expertise, the Nigerian Diaspora is respected all over the world as being of the most intelligent and ingenious and hardworking. Certainly, Nigeria needs their brains as well as the brawns to develop.

Almost 150 years ago after the US state of Wisconsin passed the first law enabling external or 'out -of-country' voting enfranchising its soldiers fighting in the American Civil War, many democracies offer the option of external voting to their nationals living abroad.

The Diaspora in the following countries vote in Legislative elections: Angola, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Czech Republic, Fiji, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guines-Bissau, Guyana, India, Iraq, Japan, Jersey, Laos, Lesotho, Luxemburg, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Netherlands, Oman, Pitcairn Islands, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe e.t.c.

The Diaspora in the following countries vote in their Presidential elections: - Afghanistan, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Tunisia, Venezuela, (for presidential recall only)

In the following countries, their Diaspora vote in both Legislative elections and in Presidential elections: Argentina, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Croatia, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Israel, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua,Philippines,Romania, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Singapore and Syria.

The population of Nigerians in the Diaspora is more than the population of many countries. The Nigerian Diaspora is conservatively put at over 20 million. The population of Angola is about 15,940,000; Benin- 8,439,000;Botswana- 1,843,833;Burkina Faso 13,228,000; Burundi -7,548,000; Cameroun-17, 795,000; Canary Islands-1, 995,833; Cape Verde- 420,979; Central African Republic-4, 216,666;had-10, 146,000; Comoros- 798,000;Coted'Ivoire- 17,654,843;Djibouti-496, 374;Equatorial Guinea-504, 000;Eritrea-4, 401,000; Gabon 1,384,000; Gambia-1, 517,000; Guinea-9, 402,000; Guinea Bissau-1, 586,000;Lesotho-1, 795,000; Liberia-3, 283,000;libya-6, 036,914;Madagascar-18,606,000;malawi-12,884,000;Mali-13,518,000;Mauritania-3,069,000; Mauritius-1,219,220; Namibia- 2,031,000;Niger-13,957,000;Republic of Congo-4,072,809; Rwanda-7,600,000; Senegal- 11,658,000;Sierra Leone-6,144,562;Togo-10,102,000;Zambia -14,668,000; Zimbabawe-13,010,000; in fact the population of the Nigerian Diaspora

is about the entire  population of Ghana.

In a world order characterized by increasing migration, external voting has become highly significant. How can people living outside their country of origin have their political rights assured?

Though historically, external voting can be said to be quite a recent phenomenon even in long established democracies, But the exigencies and peculiarities of the Nigerian situation make it imperative that all citizens who are 18 and above and have the interest should to registered, should vote, and where necessary be voted for.

Nigeria is in a political and economic state of emergency and all hands have to be on deck to save the ship of state. Besides, many of Nigerians in the Diaspora are residing and working in countries where there are long lasting democracies and therefore have a lot to impute by way of experience in the Nigerian system.

We call on all well meaning patriots of Nigeria to join us in insisting that the Nigerian Diaspora must be registered to, and allowed to vote from their nations of domicile for the 2011 elections.

We specifically also call on all registered political parties in Nigeria; on the Nigerian Bar Association; the Nigeria Medical Association; all non governmental organizations in Nigeria; all town union, on all whose relatives reside outside Nigeria, on all Religious and Traditional leaders; to join hands to demand for the democratic right of the Nigerian Diaspora.

I also call on affiliate organizations of the Nigerian Labor Congress such as: the

Agric and Allied employers Union of Nigeria (AAEUN); Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees; Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria; Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria; National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives; National Union of Air transport Employees; National Union of Bankers, Insurance and Financial Institution Employees; National Union of Chemical , Footwear, Rubber, leather and Non-Metallic Employees; National Union of Civil Engineering Construction, Furniture and Wood workers; National Union of Electricity Employees; National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees; National Union of Hotels and Personal Services Workers; National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas [NUPENG]; National Union of Posts and Telecommunication Employees [NUPTE]; National Union of Printing, Publishing and Paper Products Workers; National Union of Shop and Distributive Employees; National Union

of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria; Nigeria Civil Service Union; Nigeria Union of Civil Service Secretariat Stenographic Workers; Nigerian Union of Journalists; Nigerian Union of Mine Workers [NUMW]; Nigeria Union of Pensioners; Nigeria Union of Railway men; Non-academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions; Radio, Television and Theatre Workers; Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria[SEWUN]; National Union of Road Transport Workers; Nigeria Union of Teachers; Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Polytechnics; Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria; Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions[ASSBIFI]; Nigeria Welders Association; Nigeria National Filters Association; Metal Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria; Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities; Academic Staff Union of Universities.

At this point in the history when all and sundry are demanding the compilation of a new voters register and when information technology has made it possible to bank online, for students to pay for examinations on line, for different agencies of government to conduct epayments and the like, there should be no reasons at all why the Nigerian Diaspora cannot register and vote online. For practical purposes, Nigerians in the Diaspora under the aegis of ANAC have structured a master plan to create Diasporas Voters Register in collaboration with INEC to be domiciled in the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC and London with terabytes of bandwidth for millions of concurrent access by Nigerians.

This is similar to Facebook Data architecture which will allow Nigerians in the Diaspora to self register with pictures and thumbprint. The raw data gathered will be cross referenced with Immigration to filter out those qualified as Nigerians older than 18 years. The biometric data mining will ensure that even those with multiple passports will be denied multiple voting. The data repository is planned to be handed over to INEC for online voting using biometric for any Nigerian outside of Nigeria from Ghana, to China, USA, Europe, Malaysia or anywhere else. This will be the cleanest database of Nigerians ever to be placed under INEC in our embassies in DC as well as London.

Finally, according to Uche Nworah ''The Migrations and Development Report from the International Development Select Committee {UK} estimates that over $300 Billion was sent from developed countries to developing countries in 2003 by diasporas living in the developed countries. Global remittances, the report maintains is growing faster than official development assistance from the developed countries. It is the second largest source so external funding for developing countries behind Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and also accounts for as much as 27% of the GDP of some African countries. The report also says that global remittance accounts for 5% of GDP in Nigeria with a predicted increase in coming years. A US government official recently claimed that Nigerian Diasporas remit $12 Billion annually.

Now, how fair, how logical is it to deny Nigerian diasporas of the fundamental human rights to vote and be voted for after making so much sacrifices to the development of their own fatherland?


Yahaya Ezeemoo Ndu is National Chairman, African Renaissance Party (ARP).

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