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.
The delegates to the National Conference holding in Nigeria re-convened on Monday in Abuja to continue deliberations on the way forward for the country.
The 492-delegate National Conference was inaugurated in Abuja by President Goodluck Jonathan with the delegates urged to eschew ethnic interest and pursue genuine national unity among Nigerians.
President Jonthan also stressed that the conference would be a positive turning point for Nigeria’s development.
The delegates took a break after the inauguration to attend to administration issue before the conference would kick off.
Deliberations at the conference will last for three months and members are free to discuss all issues except the indivisibility of Nigeria.
The conference chairman is Justice Idris Kutigi and his deputy is Professor Bolaji Akinyemi.
On Channels Television’s ‘News at Ten’ on Sunday, a solicitor to the Supreme Court, Mr Osahon Ihenhen, said that some of the issues he expected the conference to discuss would be Fiscal Federalism and how to tackle corruption in Nigeria.
He, however, expressed worries that the delegates had been asked not to talk about whether Nigerians should stay together or not, a topic that had been tagged ‘a no go area’.
On the demand by a group for more representation for Nigerian youths, Mr Ihenhen said that “the Nigerian youth today is not well equipped to discuss Nigeria’s problem because there are older people who are more educated, pointing out that if it were years ago where younger persons were ministers it would have been necessary to have more youths.
“I think the best thing to do is to have a mixture,” he said.
Nigeria’s National Conference has started and the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, has said that the government is not in favour of any discussion that will undermine the national unity, designating it as a no go area.
The Yoruba community in the south western part of Nigeria turned down the idea of the no go area insisting that everything about the conference including the national unity should be discussed.
The Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Professor Bola Akinteriwa looked at the importance of the conference and the expectations.
Professor Akinterinwa also looked at Nigeria’s foreign policy in relation with the alleged beating of a Nigerian in South Africa by security agents.
What role does Nigeria’s foreign policy has to play in the incident?
A political analyst, Dr Adetokunbo Pearse, has opposed calls for all ethnic groups in Nigeria to be represented at the national conference, saying such representation would bring the idea of tribalism into the deliberations.
The conference modalities had specified that 492 delegates would be attending the conference, a number that some Nigerians say is not a true representation of the over 700 ethnic nationalities.
But Mr Pearse, on Wednesday, insisted that the composition of 492 delegates was broad and would be enough to represent all ethnic groups.
“You want a conference where some ethnic groups with about 2,000 people will be represented? “You can only have a conference of representation. You will have a representation of different groups across the board; unions, women, youths, academia and religious groups amongst others.
“From what I have seen, it is very broad,” he told Channels Television.
He compared the conference with the National Assembly, pointing out that all ethnic groups were not represented at the National Assembly.
Side-Tracking Ethnic Groups
The Chairman of a socio-political group, The Patriots, Professor Ben Nwabueze, had on Tuesday criticised the Nigerian government for side-tracking ethnic groups whom he described as “the real stakeholders with the lowest number of representation”.
In his opinion, Nigeria cannot hope to resolve its challenges with misplaced priorities.
A popular saying reads: “The words of elders are the words of wisdom,” but Mr Pearse thinks otherwise.
“I am not one of those people who believe that all the words of our elders are words of wisdom. The point he is making is hinging on something that is dangerous. People will begin to think whether Nigeria should hold as a unit and there might be calls for the division of the country. “The professor is taking us back to the days of tribalism. This is supposed to be one nation. There is no end to people who will say that there are being discriminated against,” he emphasised.
No Go Area Clause
The conference modalities also specified that the issue of ‘National Unity’ is a ‘no go area’, a clause the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference said it added after it discovered that majority of Nigerians wanted the country to remain as one indivisible entity.
Dr Pearse supported the clause, saying that there are other issues needing more attention than the issue of national unity.
“Every issue should be discussed except that Nigeria should be divided. Issues about new structure for the country, about whether we should go back to a parliamentary system of government could be discussed. You can go there to say that the six geo-political zones should be the structure of the country. You cannot go to the conference and say Nigeria is a failed state and that we should break up,” Dr Pearse explained.
He pointed out that a true Nigerian should be able to represent the interest of any community in the nation not minding the tribe he is from.
“It does not take me anything, as a Yoruba person, to represent the Igbo community. The problem is that an Igbo person feels that I cannot represent his interest because I am not from there. We are a nation.
“I can present my opinion in the interest of people living with disability and it does not mean that because I am not disabled I cannot speak for them. Why do you want ethnic representation where out of the 492 people, many are coming from different groups; women, youths and men,” the political analyst said
He pointed out that the conference would provide an opportunity for Nigerians to look at ways of improving the workings of the nation.
According to him, there are challenges that the nation was dealing with on a daily basis that should be addressed.
“Differences of all sorts exit in every nation. You can’t satisfy everyone in the conference. The most important thing is to ensure that the discussion will centre on key issues that concern all of us in the nation and very sensitive. Issues like devolution of powers, concerns that some ethnic groups are being dominated and the revenue sharing formula should be looked into,” he pointed out.
Dr Pearse insisted that when issues of ethnic nationalities’ representation are emphasised, it would become the focus of the conference, stressing that, “that is not the way we want to go”.