The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Idris Wase, who represents Wase Federal Constituency of Plateau State, is often in the spotlight for the roles that he plays in the passage of bills.
The House Committee of the Whole, which Mr Wase statutorily chairs as the deputy speaker, is very important because every legislation – bill, motion and petition – has to pass through it.
Order 7 Rule 2(2) of the House states that “the Deputy Speaker shall be the chairman of the whole House …”
With a tendency to be dictatorial, Mr Wase has been able to deliver passage of bills that the Executive or the House leadership has interest in, often denying the minority their say before the majority have their way.
For journalists and observers of the green chamber, Mr Wase’s controversial action in the process of the passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill and Petroleum Industry Bill is nothing new as he had routinely shown a low tolerance for dissenting voices.
Under the guise of guiding the House, Mr Wase is notorious for involving himself in debates which he should not do as a presiding officer, and swaying debates or foisting a position on the House.
Although he only became the deputy speaker in the current House of Representatives, Mr Wase’s rise to fame precedes the current legislature.
Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker house of Reps. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of the House of Reps]
The rise of Wase
In the 8th Assembly, the death of Umar Jibrin, who was the Deputy Leader of the House, created a vacuum. The House leadership and the caucus of the APC decided to appoint Mr Wase to fill the vacuum as the position was zoned to the North-central.
Prior to that appointment in October 2018, Mr Wase chaired the committee on Federal Character.
Mr Wase, who was first elected in 2007, served as Chairman House Committee on Federal Character from 2011 until his appointment as Deputy Leader.
In 2019, he joined the speakership race as part of the North-central agenda, but later opted to be running mate to the eventual winner, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Some actions Mr Wase has taken, while presiding over the Committee of the Whole, or presiding over the House in the absence of Mr Gbajabiamila, highlight his controversial personality.
Clash with Shina Peller
On October 20 last year, Shina Peller, the lawmaker from Oyo State representing Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Iwajowa/Kajola Federal Constituency, attempted to raise a point of order to discuss the EndSARS protest that was raging across the country.
Mr Wase, who was presiding over the plenary session after Mr Gbajabiamila left the floor, blatantly refused to recognise Mr Peller.
“As a member of the House voted for by the people of Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Iwajowa/Kajola Federal Constituency, I deserve to be listened to by the House and I have a right to speak here. I have been raising my hand from the beginning of this session to this time, so you need to allow me speak here,” Mr Peller said.
But the deputy speaker responded: “I will not allow you to speak.”
The response angered Mr Peller who said: “I will speak with the media, I will speak with the press” and also charged towards the Speaker’s box but was held back by some lawmakers.
Following that event, Mr Peller tweeted: “As a HOR member, I represent the people of my federal constituency. Any time I stand up to speak, I do not speak for myself but those that I represent. I am their messenger, and nobody, not even the Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and Deputy Speaker, has the right to suppress their voices.”
In an interview with Punch Newspaper, Mr Peller said he wanted to raise a point of order on privilege over the protest, but the deputy speaker asked him: “what privilege?”
This is contrary to the provision of the standing rules of the House. Order 6, Rule 1, Subsection 2 provides that, “Whenever a matter of privilege arises, it shall be taken into consideration immediately.”
Rule 2 further reads that “Any member may rise at any time to speak upon a matter of privilege suddenly arising, and he shall be prepared to move without notice, a motion declaring that a contempt or breach of privilege has been committed….”
It appears that Mr Wase anticipated that Mr Peller wanted to raise a point of order on the brutality against protesters by the security forces; something that would have embarrassed the executive arm of government.
Preventing presentation of petition by MUTA
Mr Wase, also early this year, refused to allow a petition by the Mutual Union of Tivs in America (MUTA) over the killings by suspected Fulani herders in Benue State.
A member of the House, Mark Gbillah (PDP, Benue), had attempted to submit the petition as is always done. However, Mr Wase, a Fulani, ruled that an association in America cannot present a petition in Nigeria.
“If they are in America, could they be an interested party here? Do they really know what is really going on?
“I don’t want to make a blanket statement regarding those who are in the Diaspora. If this petition is coming from those within the country, I believe it has a block standard. But those living in America, then coming to lodge complaint?”
He further argued that those presenting the petition probably have dual citizenships, hence, he was not convinced “about the petition.”
Mr Wase ignored all arguments, including the fact that such petitions from Nigerians in the diaspora had been heard by the House in the past. The Deputy Speaker was not ready to entertain any debate on the matter.
Following protests by Nigerians in the Diaspora, the petition was later laid by Mr Gbillah when Mr Gbajabiamila was presiding.
Deep Offshore and Inland Basin production sharing contract bill
Back in 2019, when the Executive needed the Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract bill passed, Mr Wase was on ground to lend a hand.
During consideration by the Committee of the Whole, several lawmakers like the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu), Sergius Ogun (PDP, Edo) and others raised concerns on the legislation. However, Mr Wase was able to navigate the bill through.
The bill was so important to the government that the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Umar El-Yakub, was at the gallery to monitor its progress.
Also, the bill was taken through the second reading, the committee of the whole, and third reading on the same day.
Twitter ban report
Last month, the report of the joint committees that investigated the federal government’s suspension of operations of Twitter in Nigeria was considered by the House.
Mr Wase, who presided over the House Committee of the Whole, vehemently opposed the report, but not on the grounds that many Nigerians were apparently hoping for. He opposed the report because the chairman of the Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Sha’aban Sharada (APC, Kano), was not involved in the investigation.
After a first glance at the report, Mr Wase asked that the report be stepped down because members of the committee did not sign.
Segun Odebunmi (APC, Oyo), the lead chairman of the joint committees, explained that all the committees signed the original copy.
The back and forth that ensued showed clearly the deputy speaker was out to protect the interest of Mr Sharada, who is a former aide to President Buhari.
In a loud grumbling voice, Mr Odebunmi could be heard saying “the man you are talking about, where is he… does he come around at all?”
It took the intervention of Speaker Gbajabiamila, who was still on the floor as a member, for the report to be considered.
Mr Wase only moved on after a parting shot, “We don’t want a situation where you (Gbajabiamila) will give him cover today so that tomorrow he will not do the same thing. The decision was made based on security. It has affected the work.”
Electronic transmission of results
PREMIUM TIMES reported the process of the passage of the Electoral Act amendment bill and how Mr Wase prevented minority members from having their say, including ignoring calls for the division of the House over the controversial clause 52(3).
Mr Wase played the role of an undertaker during the consideration of the report on electoral bill. His disregard for dissenting voices and ruling against the majority led to about four rowdy sessions, fists fight and a walkout by some members of the opposition.
When the deputy minority leader, Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) moved the amendment for mandatory use of electronic transmission of results, Mr Wase openly debated against it and did everything possible to have his way.
“I want to believe that…. I don’t know the coverage of the broadband. Have we covered the entire country so that we can have electronic transmission?
“I make bold to say it, you can go and verify it. We have not more than 20 per cent coverage in my constituency, except you want to disenfranchise some people,” he said.
In the course of the bizarre process, even a member of his party, Nkirukah Onyejeocha (APC, Abia) could be heard in the background saying, “this man (Mr Wase) has done it twice, this is not acceptable.”
Through the fiasco, Mr Wase maintained a grin on his face and refused to yield even when members of his party tried to appeal to him.
The inability of Mr Gbajabiamila to ensure the full use of e-voting during lawmaking means that Mr Wase could continue to impose his will during consideration of reports.
What to expect on the constitution review exercise
Mr Wase is the Chairman of the Special Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution. The committee has conducted hearings across the six geopolitical zones, gathering recommendations from Nigerians on the constitution alteration bills.
Here is a poser: Will Mr Wase allow the process to run smoothly without imposing his will on it?
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