Idris Wase, deputy speaker of the house of representatives, has questioned the eligibility of Nigerians living abroad to submit petitions.
Wase, who presided over plenary on Thursday, 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 are not eligible to file petitions.
The petition, presented by Mark Terseer Gbillah, lawmaker representing Benue Gwer east/Gwer west federal constituency, accused the federal government of not resettling the Tiv people displaced from their ancestral land through various attacks.
Thousands of Nigerians were reportedly displaced in the north-central region as a result of the farmer-herders crises.
“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.
Wase while responding to the petition asked, “did you say Tiv in America”?
Responding, Gbillah said the petition is from the mutual union of Tiv people living in America.
The deputy speaker who was not satisfied with the petition said “if they are in America could they really be an interested party here? Do they really know what is exactly going on?
Gbillah, however, argued that they do because they have family members and their people in Nigeria and that is why they brought the petition as a pressure group.
He was interrupted by the deputy speaker who 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.
This time Gbillah interrupted saying the group are Nigerians who are not all residents in America.
He noted that “some of them are just studying, some just went they to do courses and they’re in the union and are Nigerian citizens.”
He was again interrupted by the deputy speaker who said “no if there are Nigerians, they are Nigerians, but I don’t know if they have dual citizenship.
Gbillah interrupted the Wase, saying “they don’t have dual citizenship, they are all Nigeria citizens”.
Wase subsequently questioned if the group was even registered with the Corporate Affairs of Commission (CAC), noting that all associations are registered with the commission.
At this point, Gbillah referred the deputy speaker to section 40 of the constitution which provides for freedom of association.
The deputy speaker again interrupted saying, “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.
Responding, the Benue lawmaker argued that “this is not the first time we have presented petitions even from those who are residents in Nigeria, we even have those in the diaspora.
The deputy speaker interrupted again saying “I am not convinced that somebody from America can come here and then delaying issues in Nigeria. I am not convinced.
Gbillah asked the deputy speaker to refer the petition to the committee on diaspora that handles the issues of Nigerians in the diaspora.
Wase responded saying “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.
He added: “I am not convinced that we need to take that petition.”