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NIGERIANS LIVING ABROAD CAN'T VOTE –JONATHAN

By NBF News
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President Goodluck
Nigerians living outside the country will be denied the opportunity to vote from where they are resident, in next year's general election. This disclosure was made by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, at the 4th National Diaspora Conference with the theme, Nigeria at 50: The Role of the Diaspora in National Development, yesterday in Minna.

The President, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) added that this remained the situation unless certain aspects of the constitution were amended.

Responding to an appeal made by Nigerians in the Diaspora for extension of voting rights to their places of residence to ensure that they exercised their franchise in the 2011 general elections, Jonathan said it was not feasible since the general elections was a few months away.

He stated that the time was too short to include Nigerians in the Diaspora in the voting exercise, adding that Nigerians were determined to get it right this time.

According to him, the process of registering which is yet to be done in the country can not be extended to them if the exercise has to be concluded before the elections.

Jonathan assured Nigerians in the Diaspora that despite the fact that the National Assembly was yet to resolve the issue of their inclusion in the voting exercise in 2011, he promised that everything would be done to make it possible for them to exercise their franchise if not in 2011, at least in future elections.

'I note with sadness that Nigerians in the Diaspora have not been exercising their fundamental rights as Nigerians. This is essentially a constitutional issue but as a responsible government, we shall do everything to promote the fundamental rights of Nigerians wherever they are.'

Speaking to the 288 Nigerians in the Diaspora from about 20 countries, who converged in Minna to discuss on issues that affect the development of the country, Jonathan encouraged them to continue to be good ambassadors of the country wherever they find themselves. He added that the attitude of Nigerians living abroad would prove to the world the country was serious with its re-branding campaign.

According to the President, the conference was held with the purpose of pooling resources and focusing on the development challenges facing the country and to proffer solutions. More especially, Jonathan also said the conference was aimed at turning the brain drain syndrome to brain gain for the country.

Speaking earlier, the Niger State Governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, said it was imperative for the organization of the conference to enable Nigerians in the Diaspora contribute their wealth of knowledge to national development.

Aliyu encouraged them to invest in Nigeria, adding that their commitment and investment in Nigeria would encourage foreign direct investment in the country.

The governor added that many Nigerians in the Diaspora were the best in their chosen professions but the developed countries would not celebrate them. He said developed countries were only fast at reminding Nigeria of her under development rather than her progress.