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Bill to allow diaspora voting passes second reading

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The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill for the second reading, which aims to allow Nigerians living outside the country to vote during general elections.

This bill was sponsored by Speaker of the House Tajueen Abass and Sadiq Abdullahi, the lawmaker representing Sabon Gari Federal Constituency in Kaduna State.

Leading the debate on the bill, Abdullahi argued that Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) grants citizens the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and opinion. He emphasized that regardless of where Nigerians live, it is their fundamental right to choose leaders for the government.

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“Nigerians in the diaspora contribute financially to the country through remittances, and as such, should be part of the election process, whether or not they live in Nigeria,” Abdullahi said. He further explained that diaspora remittances have significantly contributed to Nigeria’s development. Despite this, current laws do not provide voting rights to Nigerians abroad.

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He continued, “The agitation for voting rights for Nigerians in the diaspora has continued to gain momentum. It is a practice that allows for holistic inclusiveness in a democratic society.”

Abdullahi highlighted key sections of the bill: “Section 1 guarantees the voting rights of Nigerian citizens living outside Nigeria. The section provides that elections conducted under this Act, if passed, shall include elections in which the Commission (Independent National Electoral Commission) is empowered by law.”

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He also noted, “Section 4 provides that this Act, if passed, shall not invalidate existing laws in Nigeria. It only provides a platform for Nigerians in the diaspora to participate in elections conducted in Nigeria.”

The bill was then referred to the Committee on Electoral Matters for further legislative action.

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