Apologise or lose $23b – Nigerians in Diaspora, MUTA tell FG

From Teryima Ajijah and Matthew Ajai-Kume

Nigerians in the Diaspora and the Mutual Union of Tiv in America (MUTA), have given the Nigeria Federal Government and the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase, 14 days ultimatum to apologise to Nigerians in the Diaspora or stand to lose $23b yearly remittance from them.

They made this demand recently, following refusal of the deputy speaker to accept a petition by MUTA on issues relating to land grabbing in Benue State.

It will be recalled that, Wase, who presided over plenary at the House of Representatives last Wednesday, had allegedly rejected a petition presented by the member representing Gwer East/Gwer West Federal Constituency of Benue State, Mark Gbillah, on behalf of Tiv people living in America.

Reacting to the development, the community of Nigerians in the Diaspora Worldwide, threatened to withhold over $23 billion yearly remittances to the country after the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase, allegedly infringed on their rights.

The Community of Nigerians in diaspora, in a petition, addressed to Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila called on President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on Wase to reverse his rejection of a complaint by the Mutual Union of Tiv in America on issues relating to land grabbing in Benue State.

The Nigerians abroad threatened to immediately halt fund repatriation if the demand fails to see the light of day within 14 days.

The Diaspora community had petitioned the House over alleged take-over of their ancestral lands, forcing their kith and kin to flee for safety.

In the request, Nigerians drawn from Europe, America, Asia, Oceania, Middle East and Africa, demanded a reversal of Wase’s stance on the matter. They also demanded an unconditional public apology from the deputy speaker, adding that Gbillah should be allowed to present the motion for and on behalf of them as a concerned group of Nigerians overseas.

The aggrieved citizens equally urged Gbajabiamila to convene an urgent virtual meeting with the Nigerians in Diaspora community to address the issue and reassure them of his full support.

The petition reads in parts:“We (Nigerians in diaspora) 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 action and statement 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.

“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 Diaspora community have never faltered in remitting millions of foreign currencies to Nigeria and bringing in potential investors. Wase castigated and called us intruders.”

Earlier, the deputy speaker, Ahmed Wase, had denied refusing to accept the motion by Mark Gbillah. A press statement issued by his Legislative Aide on Media, Umar Mohammed Puma said the petition of the group lacks some basic requirements, hence its rejection by the deputy speaker.

“In the current incident, the sponsor of the petition read the petitioners as: Association of Tiv 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 was 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.” Wase stated.

Relatedly, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom expressed shock over the rejection of a petition from MUTA by the deputy speaker.

According to Governor Ortom, through a statement made available to journalists by the his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, the action of  Mr Wase amounts to the suppression of the people’s voice, a development he noted contravenes the very principles upon which the country’s democracy is built.

The governor stressed that Nigerians, home and abroad, have the right as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to express their feelings about affairs of their country.

“The condition of thousands of people who have been displaced from their ancestral homes as a result of herdsmen attacks and now live in camps deserves the attention and support of other Nigerians,” the statement noted.

Governor Ortom pointed out that Nigerians in Diaspora Commission was established to cater for the affairs of the country’s citizens living abroad and wonders why anyone would now claim to be oblivious of the contributions Nigerians living in other countries make to their fatherland.

He commended Mark Gbillah for his calm disposition, despite Wase’s utterances and urged the Gwer East and Gwer West representative not to be discouraged from championing causes in the interest of his people.

The governor who said he expects the House of Representatives to overrule the deputy speaker and accept the MUTA petition as well as patriotic concerns of other Nigerians bordering on the state of the nation, also called on Nigerians in Diaspora Commission to intervene in the matter, in order to prevent a repeat of the ugly scenario in the future.

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