BY HENRY UMORU
The National Conference, Justice Idris Legbo Kutugi, yesterday, urged delegates to work as a team if the set goals of the confab and the country must be achieved.
Speaking yesterday during the first sitting, which was described as informal, Kutigi, who assured all delegates of fair hearing in the presentation of issues, asked them to use this week to familiarise themselves with the new environment, the National Judicial Institute venue of the conference.
He adjourned sittings to Monday, March 24 to give delegates ample time to study the various documents the secretariat will be providing them which will give them deeper understanding and insight into the issues they will be deliberating on.
Meanwhile, Secretary to the Conference, Mrs. Valerie Azinge who told delegates yesterday that they were not working at cross purposes with members of the National Assembly, stressed that the lawmakers should be allowed to work on referendum while the delegates concentrate on their own assignment. According to her, issues and decisions that will come out at the end of the exercise would be that of the delegates as it was a national conference and not a constitutional conference.
Late commencement of sitting
Meanwhile, there was a late take off of sitting yesterday with Kutigi opening the plenary at 10.50am instead of the stipulated 10am with a strong apology from him that the programme started late because some delegates were stranded, while some were getting used to Abuja.
Confab programme, schedule
Speaking further, Mrs. Azinge who rolled out the programme of events for the delegates, disclosed that delegates would sit from Monday to Thursday from 10 am and go on break between 2-4 pm for lunch and then resume at 4pm, and close for the day’s session at 6 pm. Fridays are for administrative activities.
Azinge, who noted that subsequent sitting arrangements by delegates would be on alphabetical order, said that yesterday’s sitting was not proper because it was the first after President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the conference, adding that all delegates would be given their bags with names on them containing conference materials.
Confab rules out today
She also said that the Conference rules and the Constitution of the Federal Republic will be ready today which would be discussed and approved by delegates at the next sitting, even as she said that delegates have three months to work, with the first week of sitting to discuss the President’s inaugural speech. Thereafter, they will move to other issues agitating the minds of the people and later break into committees.
She stressed that they have a 12- week agenda. The first two weeks are for brainstorming on issues before the commencement of the committees, which reports would be brought back to the plenary for deliberation by members. She said that with this arrangement, it will take the delegates about two weeks to make their presentations before conference will break into committees.
Debate on procedure rules and postponed
Also yesterday, the conference deliberated but could not come to a compromise on the Rules of Procedure and style of presentation by the delegates and sitting arrangement.
Azinge disclosed that the Secretariat had proposed that every delegate be given 10 minutes to make his or her presentation on behalf of the group. One delegate will speak on behalf of the three delegates from each state, adding that there was also a provision for written presentation. She explained that the format will include subject, issues, arguments and delegates’ prayers to the conference.
However, the conference could not debate on the Rules of Procedure and style of presentation which was deferred to next week Monday when the conference will reconvene.
Also addressing the delegates, Assistant Secretary, Finance and Administration, Professor Mahmood Yakubu who told the delegates that everything including transport, accommodation and sitting allowances have been monetized, said that no delegate will be paid in cash, but by e-payment in line with Federal Government’s policy requiring each delegate to fill a form with his or her accounts details. She added that the allowances would be a flat for all the delegates.