Despite video evidence, deputy speaker denies blocking petition from Nigerians in diaspora
Deputy speaker of the house of representatives, Idris Wase, has denied ruling that Nigerians living in the diaspora cannot submit a petition on issues affecting them back home.
“To set the records straight, let it be categorically stated that the crux of the encounter between the Deputy Speaker, presiding as Speaker, and Honorable Mark Gbillah was on the LEGAL IDENTITY (and flowing from that, the LOCUS) of the petitioners and not on the whether Nigerians in the diaspora have a right to petition the House or not,” Wase’s spokesman Umar Puma said in a statement.
“The House of Representatives belongs to all Nigerians and can be accessed by all Nigerians wherever they may reside. However, like other arms of Government, (such as Courts of Law), Petitioners must follow laid down rules and procedures in presenting their petitions to the House, otherwise, there would be lawlessness, disorder and chaos.”
Wase, while presiding at last Thursday’s plenary, rejected a petition from “Mutual Union of the Tiv in America,” saying Nigerians in the diaspora do not “really know” the situation in Nigeria and thus they are not eligible to file petitions.
A lawmaker representing Benue Gwer east/Gwer west federal constituency, Mark Terseer Gbillah, presented the petition accusing the federal government of not resettling the Tiv people displaced from their ancestral land through various attacks.
“I have a petition from the mutual union of the Tiv in America against the federal government of Nigeria and the issue has to do with the ancestral land of the TiV people that seems to have been possessed in recent times through various attacks and the fact that they are languishing in IDP camps till date without any intervention,” Gbillah said.
As Gbillah read further the deputy speaker cut him short asking if he just mentioned Tiv in America.
Gbillah responded to Wase saying the petition is from the mutual union of Tiv people living in America.
The deputy speaker, however, said “if they are in America could they really be an interested party here? Do they really know what is exactly going on?”
Gbillah told Wase that the petitioners understand what is going on the country as they have family members in Nigeria and that is why they brought the petition as a group.
Gbillah also insisted that some members of MUTA are students who are temporary residents in America and will return to Nigeria.
Wase then said “I don’t want to make a blanket statement regarding those who are in diaspora.”
“If this petition is coming from those who are within the country, I believe it has a very block standard. But those living in America, then coming to lodge complain,” Wase said.
After several back and forth between the lawmaker and the deputy speaker, the latter, said he would not attend to the petition as long as it is coming from people in the diaspora.
“I am not stopping that, but I am saying if they are Nigerians and living in Nigeria and bringing issues, I agree. But somebody in America who is far away from this country,” Wase said
Wase’s comments had generated widespread criticisms with many accusing him of disregarding the plight of the displaced persons.
Puma said Wase’s contention was on the “legality of the petitioners and not on whether Nigerians in the diaspora have a right to petition the house or not.
“Are the Petitioners represented here in Nigeria via a Nigerian Office or a Legal Practitioner or are they totally absent from the scene? Are they registered as an Association with the Corporate Affairs Commission? If they are absent and a hearing were to be organized, who would the members of the Committee on Public Petition be addressing, questioning or interrogating? Would the Petitioners be able to give first-hand witness testimony as to the issues raised in their petition? These and other technical complications were what the Deputy Speaker tried to interrogate, to which sufficient answers were not provided thus stalling the presentation of the Petition,” Puma said.