Jos, June 6, 2021: Nigeria’s Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, on Wednesday stopped his colleague, Istifanus Gyang from speaking on “exclusion” of his constituents from a federal housing program.
Mr. Gyang, Senator representing Plateau North in the Senate, while presenting a petition on growing armed attacks in his constituency, attempted to speak on recently launched federal housing scheme for internally displaced persons in Nigeria, which he said excludes IDPs in his constituency. But Mr. Lawan, the Senate President, shut him down, saying the point was “controversial”.
“Another issue of concern Mr. President is the Federal Government’s exclusion of Plateau State from its program of building 500 housing units for the resettlement of IDPs,” said Mr. Gyang.
Interrupting, Mr. Lawan said, “Distinguished (Senator), my understanding or personal explanation is that it is supposed to be non-controversial. And my discussion with you did not include talking about marginalization because these are things that are controversial. So I will suggest that you restrict yourself to what we discussed. Yes thank you.”
“Anything for Buhari”
Last November, Mr. Lawan was quoted as saying he’d pass any request from President Muhammadu Buhari (see https://punchng.com/any-request-from-buhari-is-good-for-the-nation-well-act-on-it-lawan/). In January, Lawan reiterated that parliament under him will not disagree with the President “to please anybody”. In March, Lawan ruled out a bill for the creation of Armed Forces Commission, “against parliamentary procedure,” proponents of the bill said. The bill sought the establish of the Commission by parliament as mandated by section 219 of the country’s 1999 constitution.
Sponsored by Senate Minority leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, the “Bill for an Act to give effect to section 219 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to provide for the establishment of the Armed Forces Service Commission and for other related matters, 2021” was opposed by Senators from the Northern region as seeking to strip President Muhammadu Buhari of his powers.
Both Buhari and Lawan are from the Northern region. The Senate President, before proponents of the bill could vote, ruled in favour of its opponents, causing uproar in chambers.
Resettlement petition in House of Reps
A week before the Senate incident, Deputy Speaker of the House, Idris Wase rejected a petition on the Federal Government’s neglect of displaced victims of attacks in Benue. The member representing Gwer East, Gwer West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Mark Gbillah had stood to present the petition on behalf of Benue natives resident in America.
Gbilla said, “Mr Speaker, I have a petition from the Mutual Union of Tiv in America against the federal government of Nigeria. And the issue has to do with the ancestral land of the Tiv people that seems to have been possessed in recent times through various attacks and the facts that they are languishing in IDPs camps without any intervention. With your kind permission, Mr Speaker, I want to lay this petition before this honourable House.”
But the Deputy Speaker who presided over the day’s sitting interrupted, saying Nigerians in diaspora had no “luco standing” to complain about happenings in Nigeria, in contravention of national laws.
“Honourable Gbillah, did you say Tivs in America? If they are in America, could they really be an interested party here? Could they really know exactly what is going on?
“I’ll refer you to the functions of the committee on diaspora, if you go through that, it is nothing relevant to what you’re now presenting, I’m not convinced that we have to take that petition,” Wase said.
Mr. Wase and Lawan are from Middle-Belt and Northeast respectively, but both seem to be United in protecting North’s interest. Wase in June 2018 blamed Plateau elites for killings in the State, hours after over 200 people were killed by Herdsmen in three local government areas in one night.
Thousands killed, displaced
The attacks lasting over a decade now, have claimed thousands of lives, displacing over 100,000, according to local Officials. “The attacks are targeted at displacing host communities to forcefully takeover their homes for permanent occupation,” said Senator Istifanus Gyang in his Wednesday’s truncated petition.
In the petition, Gyang said, “Mr. President, I am bringing this to the attention of the Senate, the sustained attacks in Plateau North Senatorial District of Plateau State, and to say that Plateau State has been in the eye of the storm when reference is to be made with regards to the current spade of insecurity across the nation.
“The killings and displacements of whole communities being perpetrated by insurgents and bandits, the insecurity across the nation used to have Plateau State as its epicenter.
The unfortunate thing in Plateau State Mr. President, is that the attacks are targeted at displacing host communities to forcefully takeover their homes for permanent occupation.
“In most of the annexed Districts and villages, the demographics have been altered, and the original names changed to erase and deface their aboriginal standing and ancestry.
“The latest of such is the attacks of last week in Kwi village of Riyom Local Government, Dong in Jos North Local Government, that is the community hosting the Jos Wild Life Park, and Meyango in Bassa LGA. In all, over 20 persons were killed with many houses set ablaze.
“I am notifying the Senate that the serial attacks in Plateau State are often preceded by advance notices by the attackers as to the dates and locations. These are known to Security agencies, but to the constellation of victim host communities, the attacks have remain unabated, and culprits not apprehended to face justice.
“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, the existential threat in Plateau North especially Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Meyango and now Dong in Jos North LGA is grave and I am calling for the reinforcement of Security, to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these killings, whose identities and modus operandi is very well known and documented by the Police, DSS and military under the Operation Safe Haven in Plateau State.”
After his attempt to add the resettlement of IDPs was thwarted, it was gathered that Gyang started moves to present the matter in a separate petition on a later date. “Technicalities should not be allowed to overide the wellbeing and safety of our people. Afterall the safety and well being of the people is the primary purpose of government,” a source close to Senator Gyang said.