By Ralph Madugu
Nigerians living abroad, under the umbrella of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDC) have protested over what they described as “uncharitable and derogatory” statements about them by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase.
The group in a protest letter addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon, Femi Gbajabiamila, said, “The attention of the Nigerian Diaspora Community all over the world has been drawn to the attached video clip that has gone viral on the social media, in which the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, standing in for Rt. Honourable Speaker during a plenary session in the Green Chamber of the House of Representatives, is seen making disparaging and derogatory statements to vilify the whole Nigerians in Diaspora and putting to doubt our citizenship, privileges and rights as Nigerians.”
It expressed shock that this particular video could emanate from the Green Chamber where the Rt. Honourable Speaker himself is a “returnee Diaspora,” whom issues concerning the Diaspora are always close to his heart.
Describing the utterances of the Deputy Speaker as unfortunate adding that it has not only cast doubt in the minds of the Diaspora community but also to the genuineness of the Federal Government’s intentions towards its Diaspora.
The protest letter read in part said: “We cannot understand up till now, why Hon. Ahmed Wase, a person occupying such high position in the National Assembly, has decided to run down the whole Nigerians in Diaspora and the policy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Diaspora in such a manner at a time when the contributions of the Nigerians in Diaspora are highly needed and desired.
“Such an action and statements are clearly at variance with what we, the Nigerians in Diaspora are being made to understand and believe by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“We are still in shock and total disbelief that everything that has been done and achieved in the last 20 years on Diaspora engagement is now being rubbished and put to nullity by the utterances of Rt. Honourable Speaker, the Nigerians in Diaspora have been extremely patient with the broken promises of both the Government and the legislators, where the rights of Nigerians in Diaspora to vote have been treated with levity. Even, at that, the Nigerians in Diaspora community has never faltered in remitting millions of foreign currency to Nigeria and bringing in potential investors.”
The group lamented that rather than availing himself the opportunity to listen, the Deputy Speaker decided to pick on the whole Nigerians in Diaspora for attack and questioned their citizenship rights and their rights to petition the National Assembly on issues of mutual interests to them.
“In his frantic effort to shut down a petition being presented by one Hon. Mark Gilbah at the instance of ‘Mutual Unions of Tiv in America’, a social organization of Nigerian Tiv ethnic group living in USA, Hon. Ahmed Wase only openly displayed total ignorance of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that allows for dual citizenship, with rights and privileges of the Diaspora to call to the attention of the Federal Government on issues of common concerns.”
On the video clip, the group accused Hon. Wase of castigating Nigerians in Diaspora as “intruders and persons of no locus standi” on issues bothering on Nigeria socio-economic well-being adding that he showed without self-restrain, “his hatred and disdain” for the Nigerians in Diaspora and described his action as an “affront to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
They maintained that Hon. Wase vividly showed in his body language, coupled with the list of unguarded utterances he invoked erroneously to justify why Nigerians in Diaspora cannot protest to their government, over injustice and lack of good governance.
The group further said that in essence, Hon. Ahmed Wase out of his abundant ignorance is telling Nigerians in Diaspora to ‘continue to live in their comfort zones abroad and allow Nigerians to face their fate in Nigeria’.
“What a statement! Are Nigerians in Diaspora merely seen as “cash cows” to help plug the hole in the Federal Government efforts to improve its GDP? Are Nigerians in Diaspora only useful to help lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty through home remittances, something which in the first place should have been the duty of the Federal Government through a comprehensive social development package?
“We are therefore, wondering, if Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase’s view and position are the same as those of other members of the NASS? In that case, the $ 23 billion USD yearly remittances (according to the World Bank records), Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), medical missions, community development programs and professional skills transfer, amongst others, that Nigerians in Diaspora, routinely brings into the economy of Nigeria should also be seen as unwelcoming distractions and undesirable.”
While demanding for a full retraction of the statement by the Deputy Speaker and an unconditional public apology to the Nigerians in Diaspora community, and also demanded that Hon. Mark Gilbah be allowed to present the motion for and on behalf of Mutual Unions of Tiv in America as a concerned group of Nigerians in Diaspora adding that failure to do so among other demands, the group may be compelled to take further actions, that might include but not limited to calling out all Nigerians in Diaspora to withhold further remittances with immediate effect.
Meanwhile the Deputy Speaker, House of Representative, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, has reacted to the incident that led to the protest letter by Nigerians in Diaspora community saying that the coverage and reportage of the incident in the floor of the house during plenary on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 with him presiding, have mostly been doctored, slanted and bent to give political and ethnic coloration to an event that was otherwise strictly based on Rules of Parliamentary Procedures.
In a statement by Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Speaker, Umar Muhammad Puma, said while it would have been unnecessary to respond to such show of clear mischief by mischief-makers with malicious intents, it has however become imperative to clear the air on the matter in order to educate the ignorant and reassure the enlightened.
The statement said: “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 diaspora have a right to petition the House or not.
“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.
“Note that 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 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.
“Please refer to Order 8, Rule 3, para. 5 (a)-(f) of the House of Representatives Standing Rules especially those related to Petitioners who are corporate entity affixing their Common Seal issued by the Corporate Affairs Commission. (Para. 5 (b) and (d)- ‘Every Petition must signed by at least one person…followed by the addresses of the persons signing…A Corporation should sign in a Petition with its Common Seal’.”
The statement maintained that the House has over the years entertained Petitions from Nigerians in diaspora adding that 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.
“Furthermore, in the preceding 8th Assembly, the Deputy Speaker, as part of the Principal Officers of the House (Deputy House Leader), actively supported the passage of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Establishment Bill 2017 which gave birth to the establishment of the current Nigeria Diaspora Commission (NIDCO) headed by Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
“In conclusion, the Deputy Speaker reiterates the commitment of the 9th House of Representatives to continue to promote freedom of speech and associations as well as provide platforms for all Nigerians irrespective of their religions or tribes or whether resident in Nigeria or in diaspora; while also upholding the sacred principles, rules and procedures of parliamentary democracy.”