Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Idris Wase, has denied the allegation that he blocked a petition from Nigerians living outside the country despite video evidence showing him doing so.
Wase last week, when sitting in for the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, barred a federal lawmaker from Benue State, Mark Gbilla, from presenting a petition filed by Mzough U Tiv Amerika (MUTA) on insecurity in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states.
The Deputy Speaker, who was of Plateau origin, responded that people who do not live in Nigeria should not be submitting petitions on issues in Nigeria.
He also said that the group, MUTA, a community of Tiv Students Worldwide, that submitted the petition, was not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
After being lambasted by a large session of Nigerians on social media, Wase, however, said the video was doctored and subsequently maintained that he was only concerned about the legal status of the group submitting the petition.
In a statement by his spokesperson, Umar Puma, on Monday, the lawmaker said, “Let it be categorically stated that the coverage and reportage of the incident has mostly been doctored, slanted and bent to give political and ethnic colouration to an event that was otherwise strictly based on the rules of parliamentary procedure.”
He added that the House of Representatives belonged to every Nigerians and that it would continue to receive petitions from all as long as the rules of the House are followed.
“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 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 I tried to interrogate, to which sufficient answers were not provided, thus stalling the presentation of the petition,” the News Agency of Nigeria quoted Wase as saying.
Wase maintained that he did nothing but used his experience in guiding the sponsor of the petition on the proper procedure to adopt in presenting the petition in question.
He explained that over the years, the house had entertained petitions from Nigerians in the 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.
He reiterated the commitment of the Ninth House of Representatives to promote freedom of speech and associations.
“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,” he said.
Many Nigerians on social media have rejected the explanation of the Deputy Speaker.