Despite video evidence, Deputy Speaker Wase denies blocking Diaspora’s petition

Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Idris Wase, has denied blocking a petition from Nigerians abroad despite a viral video showing him doing so.

Wase, who was sitting in for the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, had, last week, barred a federal lawmaker from Benue State, Mark Gbilla, from presenting a petition filed by Mzough U Tiv Amerika on insecurity in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba.

The Deputy Speaker, who hails from Plateau State, responded that people who do not live in Nigeria should not be submitting petitions on issues in Nigeria. He also stated that the group, MUTA, a community of Tiv students worldwide, which submitted the petition, was not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

Wase, who was lambasted by a large section of Nigerians on social media, however, said the video was doctored and subsequently stated that he was only concerned about the legal status of the group submitting the petition.

In a statement by his spokesman, Umar Puma, late on Monday, the lawmaker said: “Let it be categorically stated that the coverage and reportage of the incident has mostly been doctored, slanted and bent to give political and ethnic coloration to an event that was otherwise strictly based on the rules of parliamentary procedure.”

He said that the House of Representatives belonged to all Nigerians, adding that it would continue to receive petitions from all as long as the rules of the House are followed.

“As a rule, every petition must be presented by a sponsor on behalf of an identifiable petitioner who can either be an individual/groups of individuals or registered corporate entity.

“In the current incident, the sponsor of the petition read the petitioners as ‘Association of Tivs Resident in the United States.’

“For any experienced parliamentarian, this very coinage raises a lot of technical questions: 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 organised, 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 I tried to interrogate, to which sufficient answers were not provided, thus stalling the presentation of the petition,” the News Agency of Nigeria quoted Wase as saying.

Wase said that he did nothing but brought to bear his experience in guiding the sponsor of the petition on the proper procedure to adopt in presenting the said petition.

The deputy Speaker explained that the House had, over the years, entertained petitions from Nigerians in diaspora.

“However, those petitions were properly presented before the House without any ambiguity as to the identity of the petitioners or as to their locus and availability to speak to the issues raised in such petitions,” he said.

The deputy Speaker reiterated the commitment of the 9th House of Representatives to promote freedom of speech and associations.

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,” he said.

Wase’s explanation was, however, rejected by many Nigerians on social media.

Meanwhile, Nigerians in the Diaspora have written a protest letter to the National Assembly over the incident.

The Punch/NAN

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