Johannesburg - Nigerians living outside the country, mostly South Africa, are watching the Presidential elections back home with keen interest as the continent’s biggest economy and most populous country conducts eagerly-anticipate polls.
Thousands of Nigerians living outside the country for various reasons will not be casting their ballots in the elections as there are no laws in place to enable them.
An estimated 24 000 of these are in South Africa.
“I registered to vote in Port Harcourt in the Rivers State but I happen to be here to see my cousin who is very ill in Rustenburg, so I will not be able to vote,” Imeka Iburuke said.
Echoing the sentiments, Okoro Okechukwe said he reside in Vereeniging, south of Johannesburg but did not register to owing to lack of information in South Africa.
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"I will not vote this time because in the first place, we did not know where to go and register whether at home or here. There are many Nigerians running own businesses here who would have wanted to vote in these crucial polls, but the information was sketchy," said Okechukwu.
Nora Okonkwo, who lives in Bramley, also bemoaned the absence of regulations enabling thousands of Nigerians outside the country to vote.
Nigerians in the Diaspora play a key role in the development of their country. They send home an estimate $20 billion every year. This amount is almost 70 percent of Nigeria's total budget.
Gabe Okoye, Chairman of the Diaspora Voting Right Implementation Committee, in a statement, noted with concern these members of the Nigerian community were disenfranchised.
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“We are full-fledged citizens of Nigeria by constitutional definition and it is not a crime to live outside the borders of Nigeria, in search of greener pastures. It is our right,” he said.
Amid the failure to vote, the Nigerians appealed for peaceful elections in their home country.
The run-up to the elections has been characterized by violence pitting supporters of the ruling People’s Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress.
“I'm just praying that no chaos would break back home, otherwise I would like to wish whoever wins the elections the best of luck. We are here in the Diaspora (South Africa), but in spirit, we are together," said Percy Chikwuke of Hillbrow.
Incumbent Good luck Jonathan of the PDP and APC’s Muhammadu Buhari are the frontrunners.
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