The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Ahmed Wase, has defended his refusal to allow Rep. Mark Gbillah to submit a petition by the Mutual Union of Tiv in America (MUTA).
In a statement on Monday, Wase said that his refusal was based on legal identity and on the locus of the petitioner and not on whether Nigerians in diaspora have a right to petition the House or not.
In the petition, MUTA had raised concerns over the plight of the Tiv people whose ancestral lands had been taken over by killer herdsmen and have been in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps for years.
But the deputy speaker insisted that the petitioners must follow laid down rules and procedures in presenting the petition to the House.
“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 I tried to interrogate, to which sufficient answers were not provided thus stalling the presentation of the petition,” he said.
Wase said that he did nothing but brought to bear his experience in guiding the sponsor of the petition on the proper procedure to adopt in presenting the said petition.
The deputy speaker explained that the House has over the years entertained petitions from Nigerians in 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,” he said.
The deputy speaker reiterated the commitment of the 9th House of Representatives to promote freedom of speech and associations.
According to him, the House will continue to provide platforms for all Nigerians, irrespective of their religion, tribe, or residence.
Wase noted that media report of the matter had been doctored, slanted and bent to give political and ethnic coloration to an event that was otherwise strictly based on Rules of Parliamentary Procedures.
“The House of Representatives belongs to all Nigerians and can be accessed by all Nigerians wherever they may reside,” Wase said in the statement.