BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE & GBENGA OKE
WITH only two of the six geo-political zones yet to be visited by the Senator Femi Okurounmu-led advisory committee on national conference, how Nigerians want the national dialogue to be held and what they want the new constitution to look like are beginning to take shape
The zones that are still awaiting the committee are North-West and North-East. In the last two weeks, the committee has traversed eight cities spread among four zones. The 13-man team started with Akure (South-West) on October 18 and went to Jos (North-Central), October 21; Minna (North-Central), October 23; Calabar (South-South), October 25; Benin (South-South), October 28; Enugu (South-East), October 29; Umuahia (South-East), October 30 and Lagos (South-West), today.
Next week, the panel is expected to hit Sokoto (North-West) on November 4; Maiduguri (North-East), November 5; Bauchi (North-East), November 9 and Kaduna (North-West), November 11. It will round off with a sitting in Abuja on November 13 before submitting its report to President Goodluck Jonathan on November 20 as scheduled, according to the six-week time-line handed the committee to do its work on October 7, 2013.
Afenifere seek sovereign powers for confab
In Akure, Ondo State, the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, called for a “national conference with sovereign powers” according to a memorandum delivered by Chief Ayo Adebanjo.
“Nigerians must sit down and discuss their union and agree on a federal constitution to guarantee stability, justice, peace, real unity and development borne out of autonomy for the constituent units,” it said.
The group suggested that only a referendum should alter any of the decisions reached at the confab.
Afenifere suggested that 100 delegates should be elected from each of the six geo-political zones in the country and the remaining 100 delegates should represent special interest groups. And the 100 delegates from each zone should be elected on the basis of 10 per cent representation for all established ethnic nationalities in the zones.
“The remaining 90 per cent should emerge from equal number of elected delegates from all senatorial districts representing the traditional ethno-geographical contents of the region.”
It canvassed a six-month time frame for the conference.
Also, the Arogbo Ijaw Community in a memorandum delivered by Chief Francis Williams, said that all nationalities in the country should be considered equal for the purpose of the conference, irrespective of their population. It sought a Sovereign National Conference “where all decisions reached will have the force of law” which will not be subjected to the consideration of the National Assembly.
On its part, the Yoruba Unity Forum suggested a total of 400 delegates for the conference, 60 from each of the six geo-political zones and four from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja
The YUF suggested that political parties should play no role in the election or selection of delegates to the conference and that the conference should be given nine months to carry out its assignment.
The Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO) suggested a total of 600 delegates from the six geo-political zones.
Conference must strengthen not dissolve Nigeria – MBF
In Jos, the Plateau State Capital, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), in a position paper read by its Chairman, Professor Jerry Gana, hoped that “the conference will not be a gathering to discuss how to dissolve our federation, but a patriotic platform to finding durable and effective solutions to our problems of nation-building” because “we are resolute to come to the national conference to find the best ways to ensure the unity, stability and progress of Nigeria.”
In its recommendation, the forum said there was need for Nigerians to live together in peace as one nation, fiscal federalism, revenue allocation/resource control, citizenship rights/protection of minority rights, recognition of indigenes, creation of states, fight against corruption, structure and funding of local governments, management of national economy and devolution of power among others..
On the structure of the conference, it said “each ethnic nationality should be represented at the conference to ensure equity, social justice and self-determination; each state should select/elect three delegates from each of the senatorial districts and the conference could sit for six months.”
Aliyu proposes 30 % derivation
When the panel stormed Minna, Niger State, Governor Babangida Aliyu, proposed a hike in derivation to 25-30 percent and a made a case for the establishment of state police.
The governor advised that the national dialogue should not be used as a platform to beat war drums or sow seeds of disunity.
On the structure of the conference, he suggested a 900-delegate gathering with one representative from each of the 774 local government areas; 100 participants to represent special interest groups and another 36 representing traditional institutions.
While calling on the committee to critically examine the derivation principle in revenue allocation, he proposed 25 to 30 percent for derivation to oil producing communities which he said should, however, be channeled directly for the development of the oil producing communities and not shared among their leaders.
Governor Aliyu also kicked against the present revenue sharing formula, saying that the 52.8 percent allocation to the Federal Government was too much.
Calabar: Stakeholders canvass 50% resource control, compensation for Bakassi ceding
In Calabar, Cross River State, Governor Liyel Imoke, in a position paper, demanded compensation for the ceding of Bakassi Peninsula by Nigeria to Cameroon in compliance with the International Court of Justice, ICJ ruling at the Hague.
Imoke, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Efiok Cobham, also called for a new revenue sharing regime in the country where the states would take a lion share of 45 per cent of the revenue, local governments, 35 per cent while the Federal Government takes 25 per cent
The governor advocated for the adoption of true federalism and called for 50 per cent derivation. “On derivation, our position aligns with that of the entire South-South states to the effect that the constitution be amended to read that a state on whose territory oil is extracted be entitled to not less than 50 per cent of the entire proceeds from exploitation and exploration”.
Several other groups that made presentations to the Committee also advocated for the restructuring of the revenue formula with the states taking control of their natural resources by having a greater percentage of the revenue.
The Obong of Calabar, Ekpo Abasi Otu in his presentation said the dialogue should be at three levels: ethnic nationalities, geopolitical zones and at the national level. “Two hundred delegates from each of the geopolitical zone, which also would include pressure groups like ASUU, MBA, NUJ, and others should first talk at the ethnic level, from there to the geopolitical zone before heading to the national level and at the end of the dialogue, the decisions reached should not be subjected to the ratification of the National Assembly but remain sovereign,” he suggested.
South-south seeks two more regions, parliamentary system
In Benin, Edo State, the Midwest Consultative Forum, led by former governor of old Bendel State, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, aside backing resource control, called for the adoption of part-time parliamentary system, creation of additional two regions- a Midwest region out of the present South-South and a second one from the Middle Belt, making eight regions in the country.
On the composition of the conference, the forum suggested that a delegate should be picked from each of the 389 ethnic groups in the country, with the total delegates not exceeding 460.
The forum said: “There should be no imposition of delegates by governments. Ethnic groups should be allowed to appoint their representatives themselves. The conference should not last longer than six months.”
The MCF suggested that the Federal Government should continue to be in control of defence, currency, customs and foreign affairs, while the states should be allowed to control their resources and take charge of many other ministries currently under the Federal Government.
It said: “We are also going to discuss fiscal federalism because it is our believe that revenue formula should be reviewed to be based on revenue generation not revenue allocation, so that you can keep a substantial part of whatever you generate from your region and contribute to the central government.”
Ndigbo want equal representation
In Enugu, the apex and umbrella body of Igbo socio-cultural organsiations, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, advocated equal representation of 60 delegates from each of the six geo-political zones.
On the structure and composition of the conference,Ohanaeze President-General, Chief Garry Igariwey, said: “We advocate equal representation of each of the zones covering all the ethnic nationalities – women, labour unions, religious groups, youths and the persons with disability. The political parties should not play any role in the selection of the delegates because we have more than 50 ethnic nationalities in Igboland.
“To ensure its legality and integrity, the legal framework of the conference should be instituted through an act of the National Assembly. The executive should send an executive bill to the National Assembly to legalise the conference.” he said.
On time-line, Igariwey suggested that the Okurounmu panel should conclude its assignment by November; the National Assembly should process the enactment of the Conference Act in December; the delegates’ conference should sit between January and April; the new constitution should be drafted in May; referendum on the new constitution should hold in June; and the administrative restructuring of the new constitution should take place between July and September.
He said there should be no ‘no-go-area’ on the issues to be discussed which should include the structure of the country, the form of the government, tenure of office, devolution of power, revenue sharing formula, fiscal federalism, derivation, distribution, citizenship, armed forces and other security agencies to improve the security of lives and property.
In like manner, stakeholders in Umuahia, Abia State, sought equal representation of the zones at the confab. They said the representation should not be based on ethnic nationalities.
Governor Theodore Orji urged the committee to look at “salient propositions that will foster unity in the country” from the avalanche of submissions that they would receive.
The Governor said that the conference must among other things resolve the issues of Nigerian civil war and the marginalization of the people of South East in the politics of the country; resource control and equity in sharing of the nation’s resources; and the conflict created by the Mamman Nasir boundary demarcation committee.
The governor said that the outcome of the conference should “form the basis of the Peoples Constitution and that it should be adopted through a plebiscite.
The position of Abia State was presented by Prof. Joe Irukwu, a former president-general of Ohanaeze.
Irukwu said that he “ hoped that there will be the political will to implement the outcome of the conference”, warning that if the problems bedeviling the nation continue to drift “Nigeria can’t be great”.
The suggestions from the state which Prof. Irukwu gave include equal representation at the conference based on the six geo-political zones.
“Abia people said that they are opposed to ethnic representation because has over 200 ethnic groups. we suggest selection to be on six geo-political zones”, Irukwu said and proposed further that between 60 to 100 persons to be selected from each zone. He suggested that ethnic nationalities, civil society groups and people with disability from the various zones be included.
He also proposed that a chairman and six vice chairmen be appointed to handle the conference, but added that the zone that produced the chairman would not have a vice chairman.
On its part, the Igbo National Council suggested membership of the conference should be through election organized by INEC.