By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
The member representing Gwer East, Gwer West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Mark Gbillah and the Tiv nation in Benue State have demanded an apology from the Deputy Speaker of the House, Idris Wase for rejecting their petition against the federal government on the alleged take over of other ancestral lands.
It will be recalled that Gbillah had at plenary on Wednesday presented a petition from the Tiv petition resident in the United States.
He said: “Mr Speaker, I have a petition from the Mutual Union of 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 facts that they are languishing in IDPs camps without any intervention. With your kind permission, Mr Speaker, I want to lay this petition before this honourable House.”
But the petition was not accepted by the presiding officer, Wase who queried the status of the association in the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC of Nigeria.
Wase had reasoned that the people, though Nigerians could not claim to be in the know of the happening as to make an informed decision on the subject matter since they were not living in the country and following the trends of events.
He also countered Gbillah who referred him to section 40 of the 1999 Constitution, saying that some of the people though Nigerians schooling in America had rights under the law.
Gbillah had also stated that the Nigerian Diaspora Commission was established to cater to the citizens living abroad.
“Honourable Gbillah, did you say Tivs in America? If they are in America, could they really be an interested party here? Could they really know exactly what is going on?
“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,” Wase said.
So far, the issue has caused outrage among Nigerians as the video has gone viral on social media.
Speaking to Vanguard on the issue Sunday night, Gbillah said that he was shocked by the deputy Speaker’s statement, reminding him that the presiding officers were not superiors to the rest of the lawmakers.
“I was completely shocked and outraged when I tried to present the petition. Unfortunately for the Deputy Speaker and me, I did not carry the standing orders of the House on that day because at no point did I envisage that I have to refer to them to defend the presentation of a petition because the standing order did not require any conditions or give the presiding officer any power like the speaker claimed for it to be at his leave to accept a petition.
“There is no such position and it is important at this point to remind the Deputy Speaker and the leadership of the House that they serve at the leave of their colleagues. They are first among equals. They are not superior to us and so none of us gave them the power to deny the opportunity to present petitions from our people.
“And he himself put the House to shame by his statement which has now gone viral because Nigerians in Diaspora are outraged. It’s no longer about me or the Tiv nation. It was a Tiv petition from the mutual union of Tiv people in America but the Oduduwa, Ndigbo, Hausa, others are now alarmed. So, they are in Diaspora and have no representation on the floor of the House.
That is ludicrous and that displays the concern about the deputy Speaker’s understanding of the constitutional provisions as enshrined in section 40 about the rights of Nigerians. When we should be going into the realm of giving them voting rights in Diaspora like it is done in other climes, he was busy asking me whether they were registered by the CAC or in Nigeria. So, if even if they had dual citizenship like he was mentioning, does that mean they don’t have rights? This is unheard of.
“So, we are demanding an apology from the Deputy Speaker and he will receive a barrage of petitions from across the world for his statements which show a clear cut intention to disenfranchise a people and the Tiv nation is not taking that lightly at all. We wonder whether there is a premeditated agenda he had against our people being from the Fulani extraction.”
When contacted for the deputy speaker’s reaction, his Chief Press Secretary, Umar Mohammed said he was working on a press statement to that effect.
But as at the time of filing this report, the statement was yet to be made available.