…says the name of association raises many technical questions
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
Following the outrage over his rejection of a petition from the association of Tiv people in Benue State resident in the United States, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase has said that his decision was based on the lack of legal identity of the petitioners.
Wase who has come under verbal attacks by Nigerians both home and in diaspora since Wednesday last week when the incident occurred said that the presenter of the petition, Hon. Mark Gbillah representing Gwer East/West Federal Constituency of the State in the parliament did not satisfy the requirements of the rules to warrant the acceptance of the petition.
He said that the coinage in the name of the association raised many technical questions which needed to be cleared before he could receive the document.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Umar Mohammed Puma on Monday, Wase also said that his action was not based on whether Nigerians in the diaspora had a right or otherwise to petition the House.
He said: “Our attention has been drawn to a piece of news item circulating on social, electronic and other conventional media concerning a legislative encounter between the Rt. Hon. Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase and another Member, Hon. Mark Gbillah during plenary of Wednesday, 10th March 2021 with the Deputy Speaker presiding.
“Let it be categorically stated that the coverage and reportage of the incident have mostly been doctored, slanted and bent to give political and ethnic colouration to an event that was otherwise strictly based on Rules of Parliamentary Procedures.
“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.
“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.
“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 be 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’.”
Wase, a former deputy majority leader and fourth-time lawmaker recalled his role in the establishment of the Diaspora Commission (NIDCO), noting that he would 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 the diaspora to ventilate their views.
He however stated that upholding the sacred principles, rules and procedures of parliamentary democracy was also his lot.
“Note that the Deputy Speaker, by the Grace of God, is a fourth-term Parliamentarian with almost 16 years of parliamentary experience; some of which was spent being an active member of House Committee on Public Petitions. Therefore, he did nothing but bring to bear his experience in guiding the Sponsor of the Petition on the proper procedure to adopt in presenting the said Petition.
“Note that the House has over the years entertained Petitions from Nigerians in the 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.
“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 the diaspora; while also upholding the sacred principles, rules and procedures of parliamentary democracy”, Wase stressed.