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Jega backs Diaspora voting by Nigerians

Ahead of the 2015 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission has expressed optimism that it will encourage Nigerians in the Diaspora to vote to boost electoral system in the country.

The Chairman of INEC, Prof, Attahiru Jega, according to a statement on Tuesday in Abuja by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Kayode Idowu, gave the assurance when he accepted an invitation to INEC by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia to observe voting by Indonesians in Nigeria, as part of its parliamentary elections.

Diaspora voting by Indonesians in Nigeria will take place on Saturday, April 5, in Lagos and Sunday, April 6 in Abuja, at the country’s consular offices and will be conducted as part of the parliamentary elections in mainland Indonesia scheduled for April 9.

Idowu said the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia, Mr. Sudirman Haseng, extended the invitation to INEC when he paid a courtesy visit to Jega in Abuja.

Indonesia has a total population of about 240 million, out of which 180 million are eligible voters. According to the envoy, the diaspora voting is applicable only to the Jakarta constituency in the parliamentary election. He added that besides the parliamentary election, Indonesians will go to the poll for presidential election on July 7.

In his response, Jega thanked Haseng for inviting INEC to observe the diaspora voting, adding that Nigeria has a lot to learn from Indonesia’s electoral experience.

He said, “In Nigeria, we are doing our best to open up our system for citizens in the Diaspora to be able to vote. Unfortunately, there are presently legal inhibitions, because our laws prohibit Diaspora voting. This is not directly so; but there is a provision in our laws that requires every eligible person to cast their ballot at the polling unit where they have registered as a voter. The implication is that for people in the diaspora to participate in our elections, they will have to come home to register as voters, and subsequently cast their votes at the polling units where they registered.

“But we have made recommendations to the National Assembly for an amendment of that provision so as to allow people in the diaspora to vote; and we are hopeful that our recommendation will be taken on board. It is good to know that Indonesia does it, because we are looking out for the best model that can adopt when the time comes.”

The INEC Chairman added that conducting elections in a country like Nigeria was quite challenging.

He however restated the Commission’s confidence that, with preparations thus far, the 2015 general elections will be much better than 2011 and would comply with global best practices.

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