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Diaspora Nigerians petition NASS, threaten to halt remittances over deputy speaker’s comments

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THE Nigerian diaspora community is petitioning the leadership of the House of Representatives to clarify its position on the privileges of citizens residing in other countries.

This is in reaction to comments made by Ahmed Idris Wase, deputy speaker, who stood in for the speaker during a plenary session on Thursday, where he said that Nigerians sitting in their comfort zones abroad were not eligible to file petitions against the federal government on issues affecting their kinsmen back at home.

Wase had summarily rejected a petition by the Mutual Unions of Tiv in America (MUTA) on insecurity in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, saying that he was not convinced about the eligibility of MUTA to make such a petition which was brought to the attention of the House by the lawmaker representing Gwer East/Gwer West constituency, Mark Gbillah.

“Did you say Tivs in America? What do they know about Nigeria? They cannot sit in their comfort zones and know what is happening in Nigeria. I will refer you to the functions of the committee on Diaspora. If you go through that, it is nothing relevant to what you are now presenting. I am not convinced that we have to take that petition,” said the deputy speaker.

However, in a letter signed by Nigerians in diaspora worldwide, which was addressed to the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, dated 14th March 2021, and made available to The ICIR, the organisation described the comments as ‘an affront to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’ and sought to know whether Nigerians in diaspora were merely seen as ‘cash cows.’

“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,” the letter read in part.

It added that it was equally disturbing that none of the House members spoke up during the plenary session to call Wase’s attention to the contributions of Nigerians in diaspora to the development of the country, as well as their rights and privileges, wondering if the view and position expressed by the deputy speaker were the same as those of other members of Nigeria’s political elite.

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The organisation is demanding a full retraction of Wase’s comments and an unconditional public apology to the Nigerians in diaspora. It is also asking that Gilbah be allowed to present the motion for and on behalf of MUTA as a concerned group of Nigerians in diaspora and that the speaker convene an urgent virtual meeting with the Nigerians in diaspora community to address this issue and to reassure them of his full support.

“Rt. Honourable Speaker, being someone that had lived and worked in the Diaspora, we request that you personally address this issue openly to allay the fears of Nigerians Diaspora on the true position of NASS and your leadership on all aspects of the relationship between the Nigerian Diaspora and the Nigerian Government, including the pending Diaspora voting right bill,” the letter stated.

It added: “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.”

Last month,  Godwin Emefiele, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, disclosed that weekly diaspora remittances surged by 500 percent from 5 million to 30 million dollars.

 

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