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Gbajabiamila overrules deputy, receives petition from diasporan Tivs

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Femi Gbajabiamila

House of Representatives speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila has accepted the controversial petition by “Mutual Union of the Tiv in America” earlier rejected by his deputy Ahmed Idris Wase.

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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.

Wase, while presiding at the time, rejected the petition from the group saying Nigerians in the diaspora do not “really know” the situation in Nigeria and thus they are not eligible to file petitions.

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.

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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?”

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.

Wase’s comments generated widespread criticisms with many accusing him of disregarding the plight of the displaced persons.

But the deputy speaker denied ruling that Nigerians living in the diaspora cannot submit a petition on issues affecting them back home.

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“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.”

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.

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Gbajabiamila has eventually accepted the petition after it was re-presented by Gbillah.

The Speaker noted that the House of Representatives is against discrimination against citizens, regardless of where they reside.

“I believe this is the same petition that has been causing a lot of misunderstanding,” Gbajabiamila said.

“Having cleared that misunderstanding, please, go ahead and lay your petition to be given proper attention.”

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