The Liberian Association of Abuja (LAA) in Nigeria has appealed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for a voting mechanism that would enable Liberians in the Diaspora exercise their franchise in the forthcoming national elections.
A dispatch from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja says the Association also pleaded for the Liberian Government to issue ECOWAS Biometric passports to Liberians in Nigeria. The LAA made the appeal during President Sirleaf’s working visit to Nigeria on Tuesday, February 16. The President held successful bilateral talks on Liberia-Nigeria relations and ECOWAS matters with her counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. Speaking on behalf of the group, LAA President Garrison Thomas appealed to President Sirleaf for procedures to allow Liberians in the Diaspora to vote. He also requested 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.
According to the dispatch, he also 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. Mr. Thomas added that the President’s efforts helped to put Liberia back on the global map. Other prominent Liberians resident in Nigeria also spoke at the LAA’s meeting with President Sirleaf. 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 (NEC) about their request for Diaspora voting. 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. Ambassador Kamara assured the Liberians that her Ministry is considering opening Passport Application Centers (PACs) for Liberians in strategic locations, including the United States, China and Nigeria, which could serve Liberians in adjoining states.
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 Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, the dispatch said.