…write Buhari, Lawan, Gbajabiamila, Govs, others
…demand a full retraction, apology, representation of petition, virtual meeting with speaker
…threaten to withhold home remittances after 14 days
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
Nigerians in Diaspora worldwide have risen in unison against the utterances made by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase during the presentation of a petition at plenary, saying it has destroyed all the gains made from various engagements between the government and Nigerians in Diaspora in the last 20 years.
They said the statement has equally cast a doubt in the minds of the Diaspora community as to the genuineness of the government’s intentions towards its citizens abroad.
The reactions were contained in a petition they addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and copied to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
Others copied were the Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum; Dr Kayode Fayemi; Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora Affairs; Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs; Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Boss Mustapha; the Minister of Foreign Affairs; Geoffrey Onyeama; the Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
Dated March 14, 2020, the petition was jointly signed by Dr Bashir Obasekola for Nigerians in Diaspora Europe; Obed Monago for Nigerians in Diaspora America’s; Prof. E. C. Ejiogu for Nigerians in Diaspora Asia; Hon. Gary Linus Unamadu for Nigerians in Diaspora Oceania and Dr Obinna Kingsman for Nigerians in Diaspora Africa.
It will be recalled that Wase had at the plenary last week Wednesday rejected a public petition presented by Hon. Mark Gbillah representing Gwer East/West Federal Constituency of Benue State on behalf of the Tiv people living in America.
The people had petitioned the House against the federal government on an alleged taking over of their ancestral lands after various attacks that forced them away from their homes.
Wase who presided the plenary had among other concerns queried the locus standi of the people in presenting a petition on a matter they may not be familiar with since they live 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.
In the petition, Nigerians in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, Middle-East and Africa made a list of demands from both Gbajabiamila and Wase.
The demands included a full retraction of the statement, a public apology to Diaspora Nigerians, a representation of the Tiv people petition and a virtual meeting with Speaker Gbajabiamila to reassure them of their rights as Nigerians.
While demanding the passage of a piece of legislation to introduce diaspora voting, the people gave Wase 14 days ultimatum within which to meet their demands or have them withdraw their home remittances.
The Whole Diaspora community in total shock
The petition titled “Letter of Protest Over Uncharitable and Derogatory Statement on Nigerians in Diaspora by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase” and made available to Vanguard in Abuja read in full: “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 the 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.
“The whole Diaspora community is still in total shock that this particular video could emanate from the Green Chamber were the Rt. Honourable Speaker presides. We all are aware that the Rt. Honourable Speaker himself is a returnee Diaspora and that issues concerning the Diaspora are always close to his heart. However, this unfortunate statement from the Deputy Speaker has helped to cast doubt in the minds of the Diaspora community as to the genuineness of the Federal Government’s intentions towards its Diaspora.
“We cannot understand up till now, why Hon. Ahmed Wase, a person occupying such a 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 a nullity by the utterances of one single person.
“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 the Diaspora community has never faltered in remitting millions of foreign currency to Nigeria and bringing in potential investors.
Wase castigated, called us intruders
“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 if Nigerian Tiv ethnic group living in USA, Hon. Ahmed Wase 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.
“Instead of availing himself the opportunity to listen, Hon. Wase 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 the video clip, he castigated the Nigerians in Diaspora as intruders and persons of no locus standi on issues bothering Nigeria socio-economic wellbeing. He showed without self-restraint, his hatred and disdain for the Nigerians in Diaspora. This is an affront to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Nigerians in Diaspora merely seen as “cash cows”
“It vividly showed in his body language, coupled with the list of unguarded utterances he invoked erroneously to justify why the Nigerians in Diaspora cannot protest to their government, over any injustice and lack of good governance. In essence, Hon. Ahmed Wase is telling us, out of his abundant ignorance to ‘continue to leave 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 bring into the economy of Nigeria should also be seen as unwelcoming distractions and undesirable!
Wase’s inference, body language, posture totally disgusting
“We, the Nigerians in Diaspora worldwide (Nigerians in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, Middle-East and Africa), are totally appalled by these statements of the Deputy Speaker, Hon Ahmed Idris Wase. His inference, his body language, his facial expression and his posture are totally disgusting.
“We are equally disturbed to note that none of the House Members at the plenary session on that fateful day spoke up to educate the Deputy Speaker on what the Nigerians in Diaspora bring on board for the development of Nigeria and that it was the fundamental right of the Nigerians in Diaspora to intervene in respect of their kinsmen back home. We are therefore compelled and inclined to believe that perhaps, these views are shared by other Honourable Members in the Green Chamber and Nigeria’s political elites.
“Rt. Honourable Speaker, in order not to escalate this matter to an irreparable level, we are therefore demanding the followings:
a) A full retraction of this unfortunate statement by the Deputy Speaker;
b) An unconditional public apology from the Deputy Speaker to the Nigerians
in Diaspora Community;
c) 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
d) That the Rt. Honourable Speaker convenes an urgent Virtual Meeting with
the Nigerians in Diaspora community to address this issue and to reassure us
of his full support.
14 Days Ultimatum/Withdrawal of Home Remittances
“Rt. Honourable Speaker, we would like to state that falling short of the above within 14 days upon the receipt of this letter, we might be compelled to take further actions, which might include but not limited to calling out all Nigerians in Diaspora to withhold further home remittances with immediate effect.
“Rt. Honourable Speaker, being someone that had lived and worked in the Diaspora, we request that you personally address this issue openly to allay the fears of Nigerians Diaspora on the true position of NASS and your leadership on all aspects of the relationship between the Nigerian Diaspora and the Nigerian Government, including the pending Diaspora voting right bill.”