Legislators from all 36 state assemblies across the Nigeria have held a meeting in Owerri, the Imo state capital for a unity joint session focused on the unity of the country.
The Joint session of legislators saw Speakers and House of Assembly members from all the six geo-political zones of the country gathered to discuss their stand against hate speeches and disunity of Nigeria.
The legislators are insisting that state assemblies have a bigger role to play in the unity of the country, being the closest to the grassroots.
The presiding officer over the session, the speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Mr Acho Ihim, in his opening address said, “We are going to talk about the very prevalent and precarious situation Nigeria finds itself, emanating from all parts of Nigeria, including the issues of kidnappings and killings.”
Governors of the South-East and South-South geo-political zones have declared their support for Nigeria’s unity.
This follows a meeting of the governors which held late on Sunday evening at the Rivers State Government House in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
The governors condemned the use of hate speeches in the country and called on all Nigerians to ensure the nation remains united.
“Nigeria is a country that we all love, that we all have a passion for and we will do everything to maintain the unity and oneness in this country,” the Chairman of the forum and governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, told reporters after the meeting.
Governor Emmanuel, however, said that the Federal Government has a negligible presence in the two regions, except in the area of policing.
“There is the reality of the dearth of infrastructure in this our region, especially federal roads in the two regions. Indeed, federal presence in the regions is very minimal and only noticeable in the presence of policemen,” he said.
On his part, Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State joined the call for Nigeria’s restructuring and devolution of power to states.
He said, “Above all, we must continue to demand the devolution of power and resources to the states, as well as the institutionalisation of the state police.”
The meeting, the second of its kind, was convened to deliberate on critical economic and political issues common to the interests of the states in Nigeria’s affairs.
It had in attendance seven governors and four deputy governors.
Other governors present at the meeting include Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State.
Deputy governors who represented their governors were Retired Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah who is the acting governor of Bayelsa; Dr. Nkem Okeke of Anambra, Mr Philip Shaibu of Edo State and Professor Ivara Esu of Cross River State.
A Security Consultant, Dele Asaju has stressed the need for the Nigerian government to tackle the issue of insecurity holistically, employing both military and political means.
He said the last time Nigeria had to tackle terrorism was during the civil war and after that “they dropped their guns because they didn’t have a neigbour next door” which he says is what Nigeria is paying for presently.
Speaking on Nigeria’s achievement at 54, he said that President Goodluck Jonathan was trying and had to be optimistic.
“The President should be held accountable from when he became the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Asaju pointed out that part of why there were still issues of insecurity, was that the military, prior to the handing over to democratically elected leaders, was not intellectually based.
“When you want to recruit into the Nigerian military, you recruit because you belong to a an ethnic group or speak a certain language and this is because the military is not intellectual based,” he said.
He also noted that before a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, was sworn in as a democratic president, the military had only northerners, a situation Mr Obasanjo changed by insisting that about a thousand southerners be recruited into the military.
A Retired Army Captain, Umar Aliyu, who was also a guest on a special Channels Television’s Independence Day programme said that President Goodluck Jonathan in his Independence Day speech assured Nigerians that terrorism in Nigeria would be curbed and that the President sounded very confident. He, however, stressed that the President could only be as good as his cabinet.
Captain Umar described President Jonathan as a president who is confident and looking to do more for the country.
“The President’s confidence is well placed but his body language and the body language of his party PDP don’t really blend and there has to be a dual ground.”
He insisted that the quality of the Presidents cabinet are the ones behind his success of driving the country . “The President wants to do more but the conditionality of politics is driving him back.
“But on the issue of security, we need to modify our approach to this things as a people going forward. 54 years is a long time.
“I have seen four decades of those 54 years and I can tell you that we have overgrown those clothes and we need to make new ones or at least add some more clothe for allowance,” he said.
Captain Aliyu said that the issues of demonstration and protests in different sectors in Nigeria are symptoms and signs that show that there is an anomaly that should be tackled.
He expressed optimism that the military will win the war against insurgents in the north-east, pointing out that they had gained remarkable grounds in the last three weeks.
The inability of the delegates at the national conference in Nigeria to reach a consensus on the revenue sharing formula and devolution of power is a sign of the short sighted nature of the politics of national development, a public affairs analyst has said.
After days of trying to reach an agreement on the contentious issues, the conference referred the issues to the President and adjourned until August 4.
While commenting on the outcome of the conference on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, on Monday, Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse pointed out that the questions of devolution of power and revenue sharing formula had always been seen as key issues for the conference.
He said that the development was not a surprise to him, as he knew the issues would arise.
“I am not surprised that there is a deadlock. The conference has shown Nigerians and the world that we have a problem of unity as a nation.
“The conclusion of the conference was more political than it should be. Our politics for national development is so irresponsible and so short sighted that we should just keep talking about oil which is a wasting resource. Very soon, it will no long be viable because more countries are discovering oil and the developed countries are discovering alternatives,” he said.
The revenue sharing formula has divided the conference towards the end of the deliberations that started in March. While some delegates call for an increase in the revenue percentage that goes to the state where the resources is, others say status quo should be maintained.
For Dr Pearse, the development of Nigeria around oil should be reconsidered with focus shifted to other numerous resources in other states.
In his opinion, the state where the resource is should get between 30 to 40 per cent of the revenue; a situation he said would make other states begin to develop their natural resources in order to benefit from the revenue.
He expressed disappointment with the forwarding of the issue to President Goodluck Jonathan, insisting that the delegates should have looked for a way of resolving the issue.
After the conference forwarded the issue to President Jonathan, the President, however, said that he would not have anything to do with the decision but decided that a specialised committee would be set up to look at the contentious issues and reach an agreement on it.
“The President has said that it will not be the executive that will decide on the issue. And that is his way of doing things. He is not a person that will want to bulldoze his way through an issue and that is why he has been able to survive the storm and challenges that his administration has faced.
“He is going to have a group of people that will advise him on how to constitute the committee which would be held responsible for their decision.
“There is no suggestion that will be acceptable to everybody but if the specialised committee comes up with a suggestion that meets the interest of a percentage of the conference, then if the President accepts the decision of the committee, he has to bear responsibility.
“The committee will consider everything that has gone on in the National conference and take a cue from there. They will not be acting in a vacuum.
“A smaller committee with people of impeccable character should be able to come up with a solution,” he said in optimism.
Apart from the last minute disagreement, Dr. Pearse said that the conference had also made some remarkable achievements, pointing out that it had established the spirit of dialogue and communication.
The conference has not been a total waste, as the issues on the unity of the nation must continue to be debated and discussed.
“The conference was not just talking about oil, it was about different resources in different regions. The most important thing is that people who had thought that they would be quick to talk about dividing the country and going their own separate ways realised that it was not that easy and that nobody is afraid of leaving the union. It is not in anybody’s interest to threaten to leave the union,” Dr. Pearse said.
He expressed optimism that the decisions reached in the conference would be finalised when the delegates reconvene on August 4.
Delegates 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.
If 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.
Delegates 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.
A 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.
The need for a new mind set and approach to ensure that the task of creating a new Nigeria is accomplished has been emphasised by delegates at the ongoing National Conference in Nigeria.
Continuing discussions on Wednesday on the inauguration speech of President Goodluck Jonathan, delegates stressed the need to set aside ethnicity and personal interest in line with the demand of the president in the speech.
Even though the discussion may take a few days, the delegates say it is a key part of the conference.
Channels Television’s correspondent, Lanre Lasisi reports that the day’s plenary session had just one item on the order paper, the continuation of the debate on the president’s inauguration speech.
“The delegates were given three minutes to speak on the speech in alphabetical order and they focused on different aspects of the speech,” Lasisi said.
The discussion went smoothly with just a slight incidence and delegates, which were once divided over the rule that would guide decision making, expressed satisfaction with the progress made.
They also said that the discussion on the speech of the president, which would continue on Wednesday, was vital.
It is not clear when this debate will be completed as a lot of delegates are yet to speak.
But having started from the first delegate, they must hear from the very last delegate.
The Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC) has expressed its disappointment with the composition of the ongoing National Conference taking place in Abuja.
At a meeting in Abuja on Friday, the council said the situation where only five political parties were at the conference out of the 25 registered parties in the country ‘turned main actors to mere spectators’.
The chairman of IPAC, Yunusa Tanko, also told reporters that the inclusion of men and women above 70 years to be part of the conference may make the conference end up not achieving the purpose it was set up for.
“The inclusion of men and women above 70 years, with analogue qualification, can never succeed in mapping out the future of Nigeria and Nigerians. That is why the National Conference has become a ‘National Sleeping Conference’ as we can see.
“It is another waste of public funds by recycling the same people that have kept us where we are at the moment.
“These are very trying times and the conference will be meaningful when youthful representation, people within the age bracket that can represent the interest of the future of the country and the political parties which are the key drivers of this particular process are well represented. Twenty out of the 25 parties are being alienated from the conference.
“What will happen when a party not include in the conference wins an election, it can push the decision of the conference aside because it was not a party to it when it was reached,” he said
The modalities of the conference specified that only political parties with representation at the National Assembly would be allowed to send delegates to the National Conference.
Prior to the death of a delegate to the conference, Mr Mohammed Misau, 492 persons were meant to be in attendance, representing different regions, professional groups, ethnic groups, youth and religious groups amongst others.
They have been asked to put ethnicity aside and fashion out ways of moving the country forward.
IPAC’s statement is the latest that has kicked against the age range of delegates at the conference, which have low youth representation.
A rule in the draft book of the National Conference holding in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on how a decision will be taken on any issue divided delegates on Monday.
In the first major debate on ‘order 6 rule 4’ which proposes a three-quarter majority -75 per cent – for a decision to be taken, the delegates failed to reach a consensus after some delegates said the number was too high.
The division came when the chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi tried to overrule a suggestion of a delegate, Mike Ozekomhe, for the amendment of the rule to make a two-third majority vote sufficient for any decision to be arrived at, saying it is the same position with the Nigerian constitution and global best practices.
Ozekomhe had argued that it was against natural justice and the interest of the Nigeria for decisions to be made by only a few persons at the conference, insisting that two-third majority is more realistic than 75 per cent.
“Under the provision for 75 per cent for any dissenting voice to get anything done here, it would be very difficult for anything to be achieved. We should therefore go back to the normal practice of two third majority when it comes to voting on any matter.
“What this means is that for any decision to be taken no fewer than 369 of the 492 delegates must concur before such can be done. This is behemoth and extremely difficult given our situation in this country,” Mr Ozekomhe, who is also a lawyer, stressed.
Justice Kutigi pointed out that the consensus of 75 per cent voting had already been decided by the Presidency and that the matter had been closed.
“We cannot change the rule of voting which had already been decided by the President, who set the tone for this conference; the issue has been closed,” the chairman stated, countering the suggestion.
Some of the delegates disagreed with Justice Kutigi, insisting that the rule should be reconsidered and amended to comply with the Nigerian Constitution.
A former Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States, Hassam Adamu and a former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Gambo Jimeta, both from Adamawa State, supported the stipulations by the presidency, saying that the 75 per cent voting majority was a right decision.
Despite the attempt by Kutigi to rule that the matter had been closed, more delegates kicked against it, forcing the the chairman to defer discussion on the issue.
Another rule which proposes that the chairman of the conference will appoint chairmen and deputy chairman of committees that will be set up, was also strongly contested by some delegates.
After some minutes debate on the issue, it was eventually amended to reflect that committee members will pick their chairmen.
Delegates had earlier complained about the tedious process to get into the venue of the conference, leading to a short adjournment.
The conference’s plenary adjourned to Tuesday at 10:00am with delegates expected to conclude consideration of the draft rules and begin work in earnest.