West and North Africa

US-based Nigerian group canvasses Diaspora voting rights

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A United States-based group, South-South Native Assembly-USA, has expressed outrage over the “protracted negligence, inaction, and ongoing mixed signals” emanating from the Nigerian government with respect to Nigerian Diaspora voting rights.

It said it was disturbed by the signals despite intermittent efforts and attempts at securing the administration’s commitment.

“We therefore appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan to take immediate necessary steps and executive actions that would culminate in the establishment of Overseas Electoral Precincts or Designated Electoral Centres designed to secure Nigerian Diaspora participation in the 2015 presidential election and subsequent elections,” the group said in a statement by its president, Felix Gumnwee, on Tuesday.

The group said its intervention had become imperative in light of the perennial and continued disenfranchisement of the South-South peoples and other Nigerians in Diaspora.

It noted that the ongoing policy of alienation and geographical discrimination did not serve any national interests or legitimate and useful purposes.

“Thus we’ve remained persistent in urging the administration and the entire Federal Government of Nigeria to get it dismantled,” he said.

It said as an organization that upheld the belief that all Nigerians, including Nigerian Diaspora, retain vested interest in the democratic and socio-economic advancement of the Nigerian nation-state, time had come for Nigerian leadership to act on the side of equity and justice.

It also said it was time to take immediate steps aimed at addressing the deliberate and well-orchestrated draconian electoral policy “that is hell-bent on picking winners and losers and has remained the hallmark of the successive administrations’ response to Nigerian Diaspora attempts at claiming their dignity and fundamental human rights.”

The group said it recalled that following sustained pressure against protracted military rules, especially fuelled by the Ogoni struggle for social justice and environmental rights and the judicial murders of Ogoni leaders including Ken Saro Wiwa in 1995, coupled with the attendant suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth, which refocused international attention on the heinous human rights situation in the country, Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999.

It, however, lamented that more than a decade later the dividends of responsive democracy is yet to be fully visible and enjoyed by all segments of the country’s citizenry.

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