The Liberian Association of Abuja or LAA in Nigeria has appealed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for government to devise a voting mechanism that would enable Liberians in the Diaspora to exercise their political franchise during the 2017 presidential and representative elections.
During her visit, President Sirleafheld successful bilateral talks on Liberia-Nigeria relations and ECOWAS matters with her counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. Astatement from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja, says members of the Association also pleaded for the Government of Liberia to issue ECOWAS Biometric passports to Liberians in Nigeria.
The LAA made the appeal this week during President Sirleaf’sworking visit to Nigeria. Speaking on behalf of the group, LAA President Garrison Thomas, appealed to President Sirleafto have procedures in place that would allow Liberians in the Diaspora to vote.
Mr. Thomas also requested for the issuance and renewal of ECOWAS biometric passports to Liberians resident in Nigeria, in order to ease their travel and work permits.
He said, Liberians in Nigeria currently have to go back home to renew their passports, which is difficult for them.
He praised President Sirleaf for her leadership in Liberia’s US$4 billion plus debt waiver, which, according to him, paved the way for foreign direct investment that created jobs for his compatriots back home.
Mr. Thomas added that the President’s efforts helped to put Liberia back on the global map. Liberia’s Honorary Consul in Lagos, Chief Mrs. Opral Benson, had earlier briefed the President about efforts being made to attract Nigerian businesses to Liberia.
ECOWAS Community Court of Justice Judge Micah Wright recommended to the President that absentee balloting would allow Liberians in the Diaspora to vote and strengthen the country’s democratic system.
Mrs. Eleanor Neal Ehanire, a Liberian medical doctor, who is the spouse of Nigeria’s new Minister of State for Health, and Mrs. Angie Brewer Ehimika, daughter of Liberia’s late Ambassador to the UK, Herbert Brewer, who is also married to a Nigerian architect, lauded the President and spoke briefly about their residency in Nigeria.
In response, President Sirleaf expressed delight about the unity of Liberians in Nigeria and promised to inform the National Elections Commission or NEC about their request to be able to participate in elections at home while in the Diaspora.
She also welcomed their application for ECOWAS Biometric Passports for which she stressed the creation of a data base of Liberians in the Diaspora. Foreign Minister Marjon Kamara and Ambassador Al-Hassan Conteh also commented on the passport issue and other challenges experienced by Liberians in Nigeria.
Minister Kamara assured the Liberians that her Ministry is considering opening Passport Application Centers or PACs for Liberians in strategic locations, including the United States, China and Nigeria, which could serve Liberians in adjoining states.
For his part, Ambassador Conteh said the Abuja Mission was awaiting approval of its proposal submitted last year for the opening of a Passport Application Center at the Abuja Mission.
Members of the Liberian community in Abuja had earlier joined Ambassador Al-Hassan Conteh, the staff of the Liberian Mission, Nigerian dignitaries and members of the Diplomatic Corps to welcome the President at the NnamdiAzikiwe International Airport in Abuja.Press Statement
By Ben P. Wesee