Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Idris Wase has explained why he rejected a petition on insecurity from Nigerians living abroad which was presented on the floor of the lower chamber of the national assembly by Mr Mark Gbillah who represents Gwer East-Gwer West constituency of Benue State.
Wase in a statement released by his media aide Umar Puma, stated that the petition from a socio-cultural association based in the United States which alleged that indigenes of their community have not been resettled in their ancestral land after being sacked by gunmen, was rejected “based on rules of parliamentary procedures”.
The Deputy Speaker who alleged that the reports in circulation had been “doctored, slanted and bent to give political and ethnic coloration to an event that was otherwise strictly based on parliamentary procedures”, further averred that the Benue lawmaker was stopped from presenting the petition “based on the identity(ies) of the petitioners and not based on the fact that they are based outside Nigeria.”
According to him, 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.
“Whilst it would have been unnecessary to respond to such a 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 Honourable Mark Gbillah was on the LEGAL IDENTITY (and flowing from that, the LOCUS) of the Petitioners and not on the whether Nigerians in 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.”
The Deputy Speaker who backed his action with Order 8, Rule 3, para. 5 (a)-(f) of the House rules which says, “Every petition must be signed by at least one person, followed by the addresses of the persons signing and a corporation should sign in a petition with its Common Seal”, added that as a fourth term member of the lower legislative chamber and an old member of the committee on public petitions, 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.
Wase also restated the commitment of the 9th House 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 diaspora; while also upholding the sacred principles, rules and procedures of parliamentary democracy”.
“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 organised, 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.
“Note 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.”