Ahmed Idris Wase, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, says Nigerians who “live comfortably abroad do not have the right to file petitions against the federal government on issues regarding a spate of violent crimes committed linked to herdsmen.
Mr. Wase who sat in for Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila during Thursday’s plenary, rejected a petition filed by Mzough U Tiv Amerika (MUTA) on insecurity in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba.
The petition, which was presented by Mark Gbillah from Gwer East/Gwer West, accused the Nigerian government of nonchalance towards the perils facing those who have been displaced as a result of killer herdsmen activities.
Tens of thousands of Nigerians who were displaced by killer herdsmen in central Nigeria have not been able to return to their villages, a situation that has elicited humanitarian concerns from Nigerians around the world.
The Deputy Speaker, while responding, argued that Nigerians abroad have no rights to file a petition on the crisis, stating that it would be understandable “if this petition is coming from those who are within the country.”
Mr. Wase questioned how people living in America are aware of happenings in Nigeria, saying “Honourable Gbillah, did you say Tivs in America? What do they know about Nigeria? What is their business? They can’t sit in their comfort zones and know what is happening in Nigeria.”
In response, Mr. Gbillah argued that Nigerians abroad should be able to file complaints because they have family members residing in the state.
The Benue lawmaker also maintained that “some of them are just studying, some just went they to do courses and they’re a union and are Nigerian citizens,” he said just as he referenced section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution that does not stop citizens from freedom of association.
But the Deputy Speaker questioned whether or not MUTA was even registered with the Corporate Affairs of Commission to begin with.
Mr. Gbillah, however, countered Mr. Wase on the grounds that Nigeria has been pursuing a policy of inclusiveness for its citizens in the Diaspora, an aim that would easily be defeated if the same category of Nigerians cannot be allowed to speak on raging matters of national concern.
“I’ll refer you to the functions of the committee on diaspora, if you go through that, it is nothing relevant to what you’re now presenting, I’m not convinced that we have to take that petition,” Mr. Wase said.
Condemning Mr. Wase’s comment on his Twitter page, human rights activist, Chidi Odinkalu said: “So, @HouseNGR can so blithely strip #Nigerians outside the borders of the country of their citizenship & rights….?!
“Is it ignorance or bias or biased ignorance that drives this presiding officer in this piece of inspired parliamentary silliness in @HouseNGR?” Mr. Odinkalu, a former chairman of the human rights commission, said.
“The same ninnies who pull this kind of nonsense habitually will show up tomorrow & tell u how “#Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable”, when they themselves have made it a tradeable commodity & have made good bartering it for convenience all their lives, even in Parliament.
“Every #Nigerian who’s crossed borders shd watch this clip over & over & decide for themselves what they wish to do,” he said, adding that politicians cannot continue to preside over the affairs of a country in whose existence and unity they don’t believe.