NIGERIAN ELECTORAL LAW AND DIASPORA VOTING RIGHTS, 1999-2017
The Nigerian Diaspora has contributed greatly to the country’s socio-economic development through huge financial remittances and evidence-based professional inputs. While a total of 115 countries, 28 of which are on the African continent, currently have provisions for Diaspora voting, Nigeria still reluctantly trails behind, meaning that an estimated 17 million Nigerians in Diaspora, out-numbering the individual populations of 167 countries, continue to suffer political disenfranchisement. Efforts and calls by the Diasporas to be given a similar right have been dismissed on the grounds that the Electoral Act has no such provision. This paper is to determine whether the lack of reliable database is responsible for the failure of the electoral law to accommodate the Diaspora in the electoral process. The study was anchored on the Liberal Democracy theory, which explains the democratic inadequacies of the Nigerian state. Data for the study were accumulated through the documentary method and focus group discussions with some Diaspora Nigerians. The study found that lack of political will, rather than lack of reliable database, explains the failure of the electoral law to accommodate the Diaspora in the electoral process. Among others, the study recommended for the amendment of Sections 13(1)(c) of the Electoral Act 2006, and Sections 77(2) and 117(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which provides for only citizens present in Nigeria at the time of registration of voters to register and vote during elections.