Lawmakers Step down Diaspora Trust Fund, Same Sex Bills

Udora Orizu in Abuja

The House of Representatives at the plenary yesterday stepped down the second reading of bill seeking for an act to establish Nigeria Diaspora Intervention Trust Fund.

The stepping down was due to its rejection by several lawmakers.

The sponsors, Hon. Kabiru Alhassan Rurum and Hon. Bamidele Salam in their debate on its general principles said the bill sought to provide a framework that would substantially protect the investment of Nigerians in the diaspora whose remittances to this economy on a yearly basis runs into billions of dollars.

The lawmakers noted that the country got $3.4 billion from remittances by Nigerians in the diaspora in the first quarter of the year and said the enactment of the legislation would spur them to do more for national development.

He said: “This trust fund is in principle in existence through the initiative of the Nigerian in Diaspora Commission but it is not governed by an act of parliament and we believe very strongly that for the trust fund to be protected and for it to have the desired effect, in terms of providing a framework to protect the hard earned resources of our fellow citizens who send in their monies from the various parts of the world into this country.

“Provide a framework that can provide them technical support in terms of where they can invest their money and ensure that they are protected from the unwholesome activities of some Nigerians locally, who take advantage of the fact that Nigerians in diaspora are not around and they may not have the way of putting their eyes on their investments to dupe them of their hard earned resources.

“We decided to have a framework which put together a body of honest Nigerians, to offer this support to Nigerians in diaspora; number one it will encourage them to remit more of their money to the Nigerian economy and two, it will also provide this economy with the needed benefit of having the best value for the money that is being remitted.”

But soon after their debate, Hon. Gboluga Ikengboju opposed the bill, saying what was needed to protect Nigerians in the diaspora was not establishment of a trust fund but strong laws and institutions.

“Funds don’t give our people in diaspora that protection. What we need to protect their interest, their investment in Nigeria is strong and formidable laws and institutions that will protect their interest.

“We quite agree that most of our people in the diaspora could fall victim to some of the manipulative tendencies of fraudulent people in Nigeria. So, the question to ask Mr. Speaker is this trust fund going to guarantee the security and interest of Nigerians in diaspora? My answer is if we interrogate this need to establish trust fund is no,” he said.

Also, Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu said the matter was more of a private sector concern and it was incumbent on the National Assembly to legislate on it.

She said: “If the Diasporas decide that they want to invest in Nigeria, I think it is a personal decision that they investigate and make informed decisions as to where they want to invest. I don’t believe that the legislation is necessary.

“We legislate on everything and that is dangerous. The idea of this fund should be something that should be left to private individuals and it is not something that we should sit in this hallowed chamber and make legislation on.”

Similarly, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai said there was no need for the intervention trust fund, stressing that the present National Assembly has created strong institutions in that provide conducive environment for Nigerians in the diaspora to carry out their investments.

In his intervention, Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, asked the sponsor of the bill to tell the House the ‘economics’ of the proposed legislation to enable lawmaker take informed decision.

He said: “Brief us on the economics of this bill. Where are the accruals going to come from, is it from government, is it from those in diaspora or is it a matter of willingness or is it going to be taxed so that there should be clarity on what we are to do and for what purpose that fund would be meant for, who is going to manage it. If he lays that to rest, we will be able to take a decision on it.” 

Ruling after the sponsor seek the leave of the House to step down for further consultations, Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase, said he had expected the lawmaker to swiftly follow the direction of the debate by the members.

“This what you would have done ab initio, when you hear colleagues moving to a particular direction, it is only wise to move to the direction or take the wisdom behind their own solutions. So second reading of the bill stepped down by the leave of the House,” Wase said.

In the same vein, the House stepped down the second reading of a bill to amend Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013 to Prohibit Cross Dressing and for Related Matters.

Muda Lawal Umar, sponsor of the bill said same sex marriage was alien and barbaric to Nigerians, and the amendment seeks to prohibit the new trend of cross dressing: wearing of clothes of opposite sexes by individuals.

Wase advised the sponsor to withdraw the bill as it addresses a contentious issue, saying: “think you need to work further. Understand the differences and diversity in this country. My take is that you step down this bill for further instructions.”

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