National Conference: We Will Make Sure Recommendations Are Implemented – Delegates

National_Conference_DelegatesDelegates at the just concluded national conference in Nigeria say they will do everything in their power to ensure that the recommendations submitted to the President are implemented.

On a Channels Television’s programme, ‘Politics Today’, on Sunday, a delegate, and a member of the Afenifere group, Yinka Odumakin, said that 90 per cent of the delegates’ expectations were met and that anyone planning to stand on the way of the implementation would be called to order.

He said that the conference was the most profound since Nigeria’s independence and that the delegates would not let their efforts be a waste of time.

But as much as the recommendations have been submitted, moving to the next level – implementation of the report – is a source of concerns for Nigerians, as previous conference’s recommendations and similar resolutions were never implemented.

President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to implement the recommendations after it was handed over to him.

The delegates on the programme also expressed optimism that the recommendations would scale through, expressing their readiness to push for the implementation.

“We will go round the country to take the campaign to the people and woe betide anyone that will stand in the way of the implementation.

“It was a great moment for Nigeria when the President boldly assembled 492 Nigerians from diverse backgrounds to look at the future of the country. Despite criticisms, the President took the courage to put the conference together.

“Many issues that have been bottled up for 100 years were discussed. Many issues that were not touched by previous conferences were discussed. Different people came with different issues that were discussed and things that will move the country in a different direction were discussed,” Mr Odumakin said.

Another delegate, Goddy Uwazuruike, said that the conference received documents that showed that there were issues that were bottled up for over 100 years.

He said that the delegates would continue to push for the implementation of the recommendations, as they had put in their all to ensure that the recommendations were made.

A policy analyst, Galtima Liman, said that the outcome of the conference, in terms of national consensus, was a shock for most Nigerians.

He said that the outcome was a demonstration of the commitment of Nigerians to ensuring the unity of the nation, but said that the national viewership was taking away from the conference as a result of security challenges in the north-east.

“The National Conference has given Nigerians a voice to vent their bottled up grievances,” he said.

At the national conference, different issues came up, some of which were the proposed 18 new states, the need for all states to look at ways of developing the natural resources in their soil, true federalism and revenue sharing formula.

One major issue that the delegates found difficult to settle was that of the revenue sharing formula. However, the issue was referred to the President, Goodluck Jonathan, to handle through the setting up of a special committee to look at the issue.

Early last year and many months before then, one major clamour on the lips of many Nigerians, as a solution to the nation’s challenges, was “the need for us to talk”.

So many Nigerians have asked for the national conference and it came as a surprise to many when President Goodluck Jonathan on the October 1, 2013 announced that he had set up an advisory committee on the national conference. It was not a joke at all when the President moved swiftly to inaugurate the Femi Okunrounmu-led committee six days later.

And for another three months the committee sat and went round the country to consult on what Nigerians want from a national conference the committee submitted its report and in January of 2014, the Federal Government released modalities for the national conference

Several weeks, little was heard about the national conference until the March 17, the conference was inaugurated and the following day, the delegates held its first plenary.

Several controversies raged during the several proceedings and a major highlight of the conference was the setting up of committees

Twenty committees were set up and their deliberations are what eventually make up the eventual conference recommendations which was
submitted to the president

National Conference Gives Nigerians In Diaspora Right To Vote

National Conference 422x280Delegates at the National Conference have endorsed diaspora voting in future elections in the country.

A recommendation which sought to deny this group of Nigerians this right was rejected by delegates as they supported the idea in a clear voice vote.

The endorsement, which was one of the key recommendations of the report of the Committee on Foreign Policy and Diaspora comes as good news for Nigerians living abroad.

The conference had started the day’s proceedings with discussions on the explosion that rocked a public health college in Kano State on Monday, but the motion to condole with the families and people of Kano State came with another concern as the delegate representing the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Sani Zoro, complained that there had been no message of sympathy from the Office of the President to the victims of the Kano attack.

The Deputy Chairman of the National Conference, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, called for caution regarding the allegation, especially as Mr Zoro had alleged that there had been a deliberate lack of concern for victims in states ruled by the opposition  party. After this, did the conference observe a moment of silence in honour of the victims.

The conference then went on to consider the report of the Committee on Foreign Policy and Diaspora. After the Committee Chairman gave a summary and delegates had discussed the report, several amendments were considered, one of which was that which allows Nigerians in diaspora to vote in future elections.

The next amendment sought to have the excesses of first ladies and politicians in using diplomats for unofficial purposes curtailed. Although, the amendment brought the Deputy Chairman to a stop for a while, the conference went ahead to unanimously approve the amendment.

The conference, having approved most of the recommendations put forward by the committee and adopted the report, moves next  to the report of the Committee on National Security.

Confab Calls For Intervention Over Alleged Cameroon Invasion

National-conferenceDelegates at the national conference holding in Nigeria have called on the Federal Government to look into allegations of Cameroonian officials annexing some Bakassi villages on the Nigerian territory in violation of the Green Tree Agreement.

This was part of the resolutions reached by delegates at the conference on Wednesday.

Camerounian authorities and a United Nation boundary adjustment team were in Boki Local Government Area in Cross River State for adjustment of the boundary, a development that had raised tension, with indigenes taking to the street in protest of the adjustment.

The Boki area is said to have huge carbon credit which could be found in the forest and there are also allegations that the government of Cameroun is after the area because of the natural resource.

The day started on a smooth note as delegates gathered for plenary and immediately they commenced with the consideration of the report of the committee on Social Sector, during which the delegates resolved that private schools previously taken over by government should be returned to their owners.

Delegates said the report was insightful but proposed some amendments before a delegate from the south-south, Orok Duke, brought a matter of urgent national importance on alleged invasion by Cameroonians.

After delegates spoke on the matter, the deputy chairman, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, put the position to the house and they unanimously agreed that the government should, as a matter of urgency, intervene in the matter to ensure that Nigeria would not lose part of its territorial land to Cameroon.

After the delegates had ended discussions on the boundary issue, the amendment proceedings on the report of the committee on Social Sector began.

The conference voted for a Social Security System for the elderly to be put in place before the report for the committee was adopted.

Civil Society Delegation To Confab Satisfied With Decisions So Far

National-conferenceMembers of labour and civil society delegation to the on-going national confab have expressed satisfaction on some recent decisions reached by the conference.

Addressing a news conference in Abuja on Friday, some representatives of the civil society delegation said they were happy with the proceedings of the conference, especially the recent decision regarding the removal of immunity clause for public office holders.

The group also promised to mobilise to ensure that those decisions were implemented.

Some of the issues that the national conference committees had considered are revenue allocation formula, review of minimum wage, governors and lawmakers pension and subsidy removal amongst others.

The Committee on Politics and Governance had agreed on the need to remove immunity clause from the 1999 constitution, a decision that the delegation said was good to check corruption.

It is the third month since the conference began and the delegates are expected to make far reaching decisions that would help shape the country’s future better.

The delegates have pledged to ensure that the recommendations reached would be implemented, cushioning fears that the recommendations would not be implemented.

National Conference Okays Removal Of Governors, Lawmakers’ Pension

National-Conference-delegatesIf the report of the national conference committee on public service is accepted by government, governors, deputy governors and legislators won’t be entitled to pension, life insurance and severance pay.

The removal of the entitlements was a key part of the report that was considered and adopted by delegates at Wednesday’s plenary.

The delegates also adopted the recommendation to have federal and state legislators function on a part-time basis.

At the plenary that began on a calm note, delegates considered a change to the procedure of debating committee reports to make its adoption faster, in order to meet up with the left time.

However, delegates were divided over the issue and the chairman was forced to take a decision, after which the conference commenced consideration of the report of the Committee on Public Service.

The recommendation that retirement age for civil servants, be reviewed upward to 65 years age limit or 40 years of active service was rejected by the conference.

Most of the recommendations adopted during the consideration of the Public Service report can help reform the public service but that depends on their full implementation.

Meanwhile, the next report to be considered is that of the committee on science, technology and development.

At Tuesday’s plenary, delegates approved the removal of subsidy on petroleum products but with a clause that the government must build new refineries and repair existing ones.

The position followed amendments on the recommendations proposed by the Committee on Public Finance. Debate on the subsidy removal started on Monday with over 50 delegates speaking on the issue.

Delegates said that only when these and other conditions were met should the government be free to remove subsidy on petroleum products.

Debate On Grazing Ground For Herdsmen Divides National Conference  

National-Conference-delegatesA proposal to amend laws guiding the funding and maintenance of grazing ground for herdsmen resulted in debate that left delegates at the National conference divided on Wednesday.

The proposed amendment, if accepted, will place the responsibility of funding grazing ground on the government of the state where the grazing ground is located.

The proposal led to confrontation with loud disagreements between delegates, just as the conference began consideration of the report of the Committee on Citizenship, Immigration and Related Matters.

In the bid to ensure the issue did not lead to further rowdiness, the leadership of the conference put-off voting on the issue and hurriedly adjourned for the day.

The disagreement is coming after a one-day-break given to enable delegates study reports of some of the committees that are to be considered.

Work on the reports began on Wednesday with the consideration of the report of the Committee on Citizenship, Immigration and Related Matters.

The morning session went without any hitch as delegates had indicated interest in contributing to the report.

After debates on some issues, delegates adjourned for a break.

When the deliberations resumed, the chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, started by stressing that “the conference has nothing to do with reports of tenure elongation”.

After his comments, the delegates continued deliberations on the report of the Citizenship, Immigration and Related Matters, considering the different amendments proposed.

But the proposal to amend the law guiding the funding of grazing ground turned the mood in the house around.

Several delegates were not comfortable with the proposal while some insisted that “the state where the grazing ground is located should fund the project”.

The conference room became tensed, as delegates continued to argue over the right decision.

In a bid to control the situation, Justice Kutigi quickly adjourned for the day.

It is not clear what effect this confrontation will have in the days ahead as the delegates consider more contentious issues.

National Conference Resumes With Call For Chibok Girls’ Rescue

National-conferenceDelegates at the national conference have again urged security agencies in Nigeria to do more to check the level of insecurity and also rescue the missing Chibok girls.

After four weeks of committee work, the issue of insecurity was the first that the delegates discussed and reached a resolution on at Monday’s plenary.

The conference also received reports from over 12 committees and is to commence consideration on Wednesday.

Twenty different committees had had four weeks of intense work, deliberating on different issues of interest with the sole aim of creating a better Nigeria.

The plenary started with the delegates correcting their votes and proceeding of their last day in plenary.

One major issue, that had to do with their commendation of the security agencies, caught their attention.

More than 20 days after their commendation, the girls abducted on April 14 are still missing and a delegate, Professor Eddy Erhagbe stressed that the security agencies needed to do more in effort to rescue the girls abducted by members of a terrorist group, Boko Haram.

The issue started off a discussion as delegates proposed amendments and other motions, leading to disorder and the chairman had to bring it to an end.

After the issue was resolved, the secretary of the conference asked the chairmen of the committees to lay their reports.

The reports were then distributed to delegates after a debate on the manner the committee reports would be considered caused further uproar.

Having received reports from some committees, the Chairman adjourned plenary till Wednesday. The delegates are expected to commence the consideration of the reports of the committees on religion, environment, land tenure and immigration.

Plenaries that would be held within the next few weeks as seen as the very crucial part of the conference, as recommendations would be based on the decision that the delegates would reach after deliberation on the issues.

The conference that began in March is expected to end in June with recommendations aimed at creating a better future for Nigerians.

National Conference Committee Agrees To Remove Immunity Clause

National-conferenceCommittees of the National Conference have started taking positions on critical issues that will help reshape Nigeria.

After their deliberations on Monday, the Committee on Devolution told reporters that it had amended the revenue allocation formula for the three tiers of government while the Committee on Politics and Governance said it had agreed on the need to remove immunity clause from the 1999 constitution.

It is the start of the third week since the committees started deliberations. Some of the committees decided to meet behind closed doors while others allowed journalists to observe their proceedings.

Some of the committees’ chairmen said the committees’ works were progressing well, but there have been increasing doubts that the committees would finish their works within the stipulated time.

Meanwhile, news of the death of a delegate, Dr Mohammed Jumare, from Kaduna State was announced by the conference secretariat.

Dr Jumare, who came to the conference as an elder statesman died in the early hours of Monday in Abuja and was buried later in the day in Zaria.

National Conference Committee Rejects Idea Of State Police

National-conferenceAdvocates of state police in Nigeria may still have a lot of work to do, as two committees at the National Conference on Monday rejected the idea.

The issue failed to get the approval at the Committees on Devolution of Power and National Security.

The issue was debated with passion by proponents and opponents in the committees as they resume deliberation for the week.

It is just three days left for committees to complete their work and submit their recommendations, but some committees were still receiving presentation from resource people and agencies they had invited, such as the Nigeria communication commission and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation.

The committee on devolution of power continued where they left off debating items that should be moved from the exclusive list of the constitution to the concurrent list.

It was difficult to reach a consensus on the item on mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining geographical surveys and natural gas.

The issue was then put aside and the debate on the issue of the police came up.

In the committee on National Security, the sub-committee of police presenting its report rejected the creation of state police.

The sub-committee, however, recommended that the appointment of a Commissioner of Police should be in consultation with the state governor.

As time is no longer on their side, the committees are working to complete their assignment before Wednesday.

The insecurity situation in the north eastern part of Nigeria had led to the call for state police, which advocates believe would tackle the issue at the grassroots, as police officials would understand the community they would be policing better.

Those against the establishment of state police are afraid that the police could be abused by Nigerians, who may use them to fight political opponents.

Jonathan Told To Seek Legal Backing To National Conference’s Outcome

Robert ClarkePresident Goodluck Jonathan has been asked to send a private bill to the National Assembly to request for a legal backing to the outcome of the National conference and the wishes of the people before the end of the conference.

In an interview on Saturday with Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele, a Nigerian lawyer, Robert Clarke, said that the outcome of the conference would be meaningless if the National Assembly would be allowed to approve the decision of the conference or a referendum.

Mr Clarke’s call is the latest on the need for legal backing for the decision of the conference which will end in June.

“The wish of the people is most important in the development of every country.

“I am happy that the president has now agreed that whatever decisions taken at the conference would go for a referendum,” he said.

Mr Clarke further expressed fears that the President had failed to lay a legal basis upon which any decision of the conference could be hinged.

“It is becoming late from what I hear… When the President said that the decision may go for a referendum, the National Assembly’s leader said that they do not mind but when the decision goes to referendum it will come back to them. That is where we are going to have problem in Nigeria.

“I am seeing the dark cloud. Whatever decision the conference agrees in three or four months’ time, if they make the mistake that it goes to referendum and it drastically changes the  system of governance we have today, this National Assembly will never approve it,” he said.

Since the conference started in March, lawyers have insisted on an amendment of the constitution to provide for the conduct of a referendum if the conference delegates would agree that their recommendations should be adopted through a referendum.

On April 2, the Nigerian Senate considered the procedure for the introduction of a new constitution as part of the amendment to the 1999 constitution.

If the amendment is passed, the nation’s president and the National Assembly can introduce a brand new constitution.

For years, some Nigerians have said the current constitution, having more of military governments’ inputs, does not represent the wishes and aspirations of the people.

Even with the ongoing constitutional review in the National Assembly, there are still agitations for a new constitution.

The consideration by the Senators appears to be opening a window for the introduction of a new constitution, with the presentation of some new proposals by the Senate Committee which has been working on review of the constitution.

It also creates an opportunity for the President to submit the outcome of the National Conference to the National Assembly for adoption.  

National Conference Discussing Irrelevant Issues – Sagay

Itse-SagayA Nigerian Lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay, says the National Conference is discussing a number of issues that it should not concern itself with.

Professor Sagay beliefs that the conference should focus on issues of how Nigerians can associate and live peacefully together.

He stressed that about 75 per cent of the 492 delegates at the conference do not know what they were there for.

“The younger ones and some of the old ones do not know what they are there for,” he said.

The lawyer outlined some items he said were irrelevant and contained in the recommendations submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan by the Presidential Advisory committee on National Conference.

“You will hear things like; good governance, corruption, cost of governance, deepening democracy, democratisation, political parties, education; about 20 of the items in the list are totally irrelevant.

He insisted that issues that could be discussed outside the conference were not relevant in the conference.

“We can always discuss education, we can meet to trash out corruption, discuss cost of governance,” he said, listing some of the relevant issues that should be discussed to include things that would determine the mode of association between communities in future and how different communities and people should use resources.

The conference, which began in March will  dwell on these issues for three months.

Nigeria’s Confab Hugely Considering Parliamentary Democracy

Bisi-Adegbuyi-National Confernce delegateDelegates at Nigeria’s National Conference are hugely considering the possibility of parliamentary democracy that will empower the units to develop in their own pace, a delegate has said.

Giving an update on Tuesday on the progress made so far by the conference, Mr Bisi Adegbuyi said that the delegates were reflecting on achievements recorded in the first republic, where the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa were at the helm of affairs, between 1963 and 1966, and had stressed the need for the decentralisation of power.

The Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, at the inauguration of the conference told delegates to take a deep introspection to see where Nigeria mixed it and come up with recommendations that would create a better future.

The Golden Years

Mr Adegbuyi also stressed that some positions presented to the conference by some regions, had centred on the need to adopt true federalism, anchored on regional autonomy that will empower the units to develop in their own pace.

“Without sounding like a cracked record, I am nostalgic about the golden years of Obafemi Awolowo in western region and I also believe the northerners are also nostalgic about the years of Amadu Belo in the north, ditto Nnamdi Azikiwe and later Michael Okpara.

“If you had a template that worked for you, where universities were world class universities, where hospitals were not mere consultant clinics and where infrastructure was indiscriminately unleashed across Nigeria, I think we should revisit it.

“We must weaken the centre, which is unwieldy as it is presently constituted with overwhelming incompetency, and develop Nigeria from the fringes.

“Let us look at countries that share so many similarities with us. India is a perfect example and it is working. They have continued to work on their front lines,” he pointed out.

The conference delegate stated that delegates from the South-south, south-west and south-east had largely agreed on parliamentary democracy, the need to devolve power and state police.

Sovereignty Belongs To The People

He pointed out that the current system of government was failing, as it could not boast of protecting lives and property which is the primary responsibility of every government.

“The spate of insecurity in Nigeria is frightening and we must quickly do something,” he said.

Mr Adegbuyi, who is also a lawyer, insisted that the government was over centralised at the expense of the component units that were closer to the people, causing a setback to the development process, as they lack needed funds.

The conference had decided to request for memoranda from Nigerians, insisting that the people should express their sovereignty and desire for change, a strategy that is aimed at generating an autochthonous constitution.

“We do not want to take the people for granted. We will have to seek the legitimacy of the people. The conference members were nominated and it raises crisis of legitimacy. If you take your resolutions to the people and by majority, they say yes to that process, then nobody, no institution or power can tinker what the people have accepted,” Mr Adegbuyi said.

“I do not subscribe to the idea that people who are part of the problems should not be part of seeking solutions to the problems they created and that we must get new people to sort out Nigeria. It is a baggage of some sort.

“The only thing is for the new blood who are involved now to seize the moment and then don’t allow the old people that had brought us to our knees to seize the initiative,” the lawyer stressed.

The issue of how decision can be reached on issues before the conference divided the house during the first few days of the conference. It was later agreed that 70 per cent vote would be needed to adopt a decision. The conference may also need to try consensus decision before voting.

On how the conference can achieve the consensus on the system of government that the country should adopt, Mr Adegbuyi said that the consensus had been encouraged in the conference.

He said: “Seventy per cent benchmark on agreeing on anything is good, but consensus is the way to go. We will try consensus but if it fails it will be put to voting. You cannot but have a consensus”.

According to him, the best is for the decision to be presented to Nigerians to say yes or no to it.

“Once that is done, then it should be grafted into the constitution,” he stated.

There have been fears that the National Assembly may not create the right atmosphere for the people to take the final decision by way of a holding a referendum on the decisions of the conference.

But the National Assembly had on Wednesday discussed the possibility of giving power to the Nigerian president, by way of an executive bill, to initiate the introduction of a new constitution, which may come from the conference.

There have been criticisms that the conference’s decisions may not be implemented as several conferences held in the past had been left unimplemented.

To guard against the chances of the decision of the conference going the way of others, the delegates in the conference had asked President, Jonathan to ensure the implementation of the conference’s decision.

Mr Adegbuyi, expressed optimism that the conference would have a good result, but stressed that good governance was what Nigerians needed, insisting that good governance will lay to rest issues bordering on religion, ethnicity and federal character amongst others.