The Independent National Electoral Commission will not relent in its aspiration to make Nigeria’s electoral system more inclusive by accommodating citizens in the diaspora, the Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, has said.
Jega 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 the Asian country’s parliamentary elections.
Diaspora voting by Indonesians in Nigeria will hold on April 5 in Lagos and April 6 in Abuja.
It will take place at the country’s consular offices.
The voting will be conducted as part of the parliamentary elections in mainland Indonesia scheduled for April 9, 2014.
The Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia, Sudirman Haseng, extended the invitation to INEC when he paid a courtesy visit to Jega in Abuja on Tuesday.
Indonesia has a 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 the Ambassador for inviting INEC to observe the diaspora voting, noting 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 make 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 be adapted to our country when the time comes.”
The INEC Chairman added that conducting elections in a country like Nigeria is quite challenging, but he restated the Commission’s confidence that given ongoing preparations, the 2015 general election will be much better than that of 2011 and will comply with global best standards.