From Uche Usim, Abuja
Nigerians in diaspora have lampooned the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Ahmed Idris Wase, for summarily dismissing Mr Mark Gbillah, representing Gwer East Federal Constituency of Benue State, who attempted to present a petition to the House on behalf of the Mutual Union of Tiv in America (MUTA) but was blocked by Wase.
The March 10 incident on the floor of the green chamber drew the ire of Nigerians who described the development as dictatorship and an attempt to silence some Nigerians who were grieving over the forceful takeover of their ancestral lands by marauding herders.
MUTA in a statement signed by its President, Simon Kusugh and Prof Joseph Zume released on Sunday reminded the Deputy Speaker that 2019, Nigerians residing abroad contributed approximately $23.5 billion to the Nigerian economy in the form of direct business investments and remittances back to their families to help pay for hospital bills, education, and basic amenities like water, energy, food, and security.
“In a functioning society, the Nigerian government ought to have been providing these services, obviating the need for Nigerians abroad to sacrifice their hard earned and sometimes meager salaries.
“To buttress the significance of the contributions that Nigerians abroad make to the Nigerian economy, it is worth further pointing out that, in 2018, diaspora remittances translated to 83% of the federal budget, and was 11 times the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows. In essence, Nigerians abroad are greatly subsidizing the federal budget yearly. These are the groups of Nigerians that Mr. Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives argues do not have a right to make a petition to the House”, MUTA stated.
The Association wondered why a country like China is engaging its diaspora citizens, yet Nigeria’s leadership is actively discouraging and denying Nigerians abroad a voice in the affairs of their own country.
“Perhaps Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase’s position was only targeted against Nigeria’s Tiv diaspora. He must clarify his position for posterity.
“We are in deep shock and disbelief that such a high-ranking officer of the House-the number six citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, would so glibly deny bonafide Nigerian citizens the right to present a grievance before the House. Under whatever guise, whether borne out of mischief or ignorance, or both, Hon. Wase’s action bodes no good for our motherland. We must make it clear that MUTA members are Nigerians, and have the right like other Nigerians, to make a case to the National Assembly on matters of concern to them.
“Yes, we are stakeholders, contrary to Hon. Wase’s uninformed position that we are not because we sojourn in a foreign land, or that we are not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Even at that, let it be known that MUTA is an affiliate of the parent organization, the Mzough U Tiv (MUT) in Nigeria, which is duly registered with the CAC. This fact was stated in the opening paragraph of the petition, if only the Deputy Speaker had given it a chance to be heard”, the statement added.
MUTA added that the action of the Deputy Speaker’s action remains highly reprehensible given that the subject of its petition addressed the fate of hundreds of thousands of authentic Nigerian citizens who have been displaced from their communities for years.
“As national representatives of Nigerians, the Honorable Members should ordinarily be expected to empathize with those hapless citizens they represent, whose normal livelihoods have been truncated by unfortunate circumstances. Obviously, that was not indicated on this day as no member present attempted to persuade the Deputy Speaker to allow Hon. Gbillah’s presentation.
“Unfortunately, the naked display of bias and pathetic ignorance by the Deputy Speaker in denying us a hearing, is emblematic of the general rot in our country where persons placed in high positions so often act in betrayal of such positions. What else can we surmise, if a high-ranking legislative leader does not know that they owe a responsibility to protect the constitutionally entrenched rights of all Nigerian citizens, irrespective of where they may reside? But how could Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, be that much ignorant of the place of Nigerians in the Diaspora when the Federal Government of Nigeria, in recognition of the strategic importance of the Nigerian diaspora, signed the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) Establishment Bill into law in July 2017? Not just that, but in 2019, the Federal Government went further to set July 25 of every year as National Diaspora Day.
“To the best of our knowledge, Nigeria still recognizes dual citizenship. It should, therefore, be unquestionable to any serious person that Nigerians in the diaspora, as citizens, have a right to register their grievances with any arm of the Nigerian government”, the statement noted.