Herdsmen killers: Coalition of Nigerians in Diaspora threaten to halt $23bn annual remittances, petition Buhari, NGF, others

• I queried legal identity of petitioners ― Hon. Wase

Coalition of Nigerian in Diaspora Organisations (NIDO) drawn from Europe, Americas, Asia, Oceania and Africa have threatened to halt annual diaspora remittances worth over $23 billion into the country, in protest against the disparaging and derogatory statements made by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Idris Wase last Wednesday.

In the 4-page protest letter dated March 14, 2021, and addressed to the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the coalition alleged that the Deputy Speaker’s statements “vilify the whole Nigerians in diaspora and putting to doubt our citizenship, privileges and rights as Nigerians.”

Copies of the petition was also sent to President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan; Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi; Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora Affairs; Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs; Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Minister of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

They maintained that “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 nullity by the utterances of one single person.

The group maintained that “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 on 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.

“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 brings into the economy of Nigeria should also be seen as unwelcoming distractions and undesirable!

“We, the Nigerians in diaspora worldwide (Nigerians in Europe, 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 posture are totally disgusting. We are equally disturbed to note that none of the House Members at the plenary session on that fateful day,” the group queried.

While demanding for retraction of the unfortunate statement, unconditional public apology from the Deputy Speaker, the group stated that: “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.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Umar Muhammad Puma, who maintained his stance, affirmed that the legal identity of the petitioners.

“Our attention has been drawn to a piece of news item circulating on social, electronic and other conventional media concerning a legislative encounter between the Rt. Hon. Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase and another Member, Hon. Mark Gbillah during plenary of Wednesday, 10th March, 2021 with the Deputy Speaker presiding.

“Let it be categorically stated that the coverage and reportage of the incident have mostly been doctored, slanted and bent to give political and ethnic colouration to an event that was otherwise strictly based on Rules of Parliamentary Procedures.

“While it would have been unnecessary to respond to such 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 Honorable 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.

“Note that 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 the Deputy Speaker tried to interrogate, to which sufficient answers were not provided thus stalling the presentation of the Petition. Please refer to Order 8, Rule 3, para. 5 (a)-(f) of the House of Representatives Standing Rules especially those related to Petitioners who are corporate entity affixing their Common Seal issued by the Corporate Affairs Commission. (Para. 5 (b) and (d)- ‘Every Petition must be signed by at least one person…followed by the addresses of the persons signing…A Corporation should sign in a Petition with its Common Seal’.

“Note that the Deputy Speaker, by the Grace of God, is a fourth-term Parliamentarian with almost 16 years of parliamentary experience; some of which were spent being an active member of House Committee on Public Petitions. Therefore, 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.

“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. Furthermore, in the preceding 8th Assembly, the Deputy Speaker, as part of the Principal Officers of the House (Deputy House Leader), actively supported the passage of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Establishment Bill 2017 which gave birth to the establishment of the current Nigeria Diaspora Commission (NIDCO) headed by Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

“In conclusion, the Deputy Speaker reiterates the commitment of the 9th House of Representatives 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.”

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