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Inaugural speech debates end, delegates get 20 committees Monday

We don’t have mandate to restructure Nigeria— Yadudu
S/East backs 50% resource control
Yakassai seeks 12 states structure, special courts for graft
Replace NYSC with National Military Service— Alfred Diete Spiff

BY HENRY UMORU, JOSEPH ERUNKE & LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU

ABUJA- AFTER 10 days of discussions delegates at the National Conference, yesterday rounded off debates on the inaugural speech of President Goodluck Jonathan with issues like high cost of governance, state creation, returning to 12-state structure, corruption, insecurity and federalism dominating discourse.

Delegates at the on-going national conference
Delegates at the on-going national conference

With the debates on the president’s speech over, the conference is set for the committee stage, which will begin on Monday when the 20 standing committees are expected to be announced.

Vanguard gathered that Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, his deputy, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, the Secretary, Mrs. Valerie Azinge; the assistant Secretary, Conference Proceedings, Dr. Akilu Indabawa; Assistant Secretary, Finance and Administration, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and the Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications, Akpandem James, met for several hours between Wednesday night and early hours of yesterday to allocate delegates into the 20 standing committees.

If the contributions of delegates at the plenary yesterday were anything to go by, the committees will have a handful.

We support 50% resource control,  rotational Presidency— Uwazurike
Speaking yesterday, President of Aka Ikenga, Chief  Goddy Uwazurike, who noted that Nigeria like any other country has some fundamental problems crying for amelioration, advocated for fiscal federalism, rotation of the presidency and  governorship at both federal and state level.

Making a case for 50 per cent resource control, Uwazurike, who complained that the South East geo- political zone was the most marginalised in the country with only 2.1 per cent of all federal projects and staff of the Federal Government, called for equality of the zones, adding that there must be devolution of powers and true federalism.

According to him, the unemployment situation and youth restlessness were twin time bombs which must be addressed adding that cost of governance was too high and that executive lawlessness at all levels must not be tolerated.

We don’t have mandate to restructure Nigeria—  Yadudu
In his contribution, former Special Adviser to late Head of State, General Sani  Abacha on Legal Matters and a delegate representing the North- West Zone, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu, expressed pessimism over the capacity of the conference to alter the structure of the country. Reason: the conference does not have the mandate to restructure Nigeria, and it is at best a dignified presidential advisory committee to President Jonathan.

To ensure that outcome of the conference did not suffer same fate as similar exercises in the past, he suggested: “The Conference must draw up a very clear road map that spells out the necessary legal and institutional frameworks to guide the implementation of its resolutions; a dedicated Committee of the Conference should be

established to attend to this from the onset; all conference resolutions requiring legal and constitutional expressions must be carried out in accordance with the 1999 constitution and extant statutory provisions; Conference must propose draft legislations for enactment and implementation by the NASS. Policy proposals and options should go to the Executive arm.”

He continued:  ”The President has loudly proclaimed that he has no personal agenda in convening the Conference. I believe him.  However, there appears to be a bold agenda set by acts of commission or omission. It is a fact that this Conference has been designed not in conformity with popular or democratic indices.

Contrary to the advice offered by the Okurounmu Committee, it is conceived on a novel and very risky rule of the thumb. Its composition is based on a template of criteria that fly in the face of democratic norms that are universal.

Elelctoral process
I admit that many in this August gathering may not offer their varied and rich experience and expertise if they had to submit to the electoral process. Yet, we should not engage in self delusion.

“Given our skewed and undemocratic composition, we cannot claim to remove the lie (we, the people) that has too frequently been pointed out to adorn the preamble to our constitution. Being unelected, this conference lacks the essential brief or mandate to restructure Nigeria with finality. I join all those who have urged us to accept our limited function as just another dignified presidential advisory committee.

“Some have argued that even the NASS lacks sufficient popular mandate or credibility. That it is incapable or less favourably disposed to undertake the demolition or profound reconstruction job which Nigeria critically needs. This is on account of the alleged deep flaws in our electoral system and processes that its members have

benefited from, need one be reminded that the President is himself the product and beneficiary of the same deeply flawed electoral processes. As such, he cannot claim to be ascribed any more legitimacy than the NASS. Yet we recognise his constitutional powers to convene and have responded to his call to participate in the Conference.

Yakassai, seeks 12 states structure, special courts for graft
Also contributing, Elder Statesman and former Political Adviser to ex- President Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai yesterday advocated for a reversal to the former 12 states structure, just as he said that the unity of Nigeria rests on how we were able to correct the controversies around the nation’s population figures and revenue allocation.

The coordinator of the new Northern Elders Council, who noted that  good governance has also eluded the nation due to lack of political will to curb corruption, said, “the form of derivation now being advocated by some people, for example, 50 per cent of the entire revenue generated from certain states in the country is not

in conformity with long established tradition of Nigerians being their brother’s keeper and is bound to further aggravate the economic imbalance and inequity in the distribution of revenue among the constituent parts of the Federation which is one of the factors that is responsible for the security challenges this country is presently experiencing.”

He said: “The fight against corruption has been largely unsuccessful due to the inability of bodies charged with that responsibility to ensure the judicial sanctioning or punishment of suspected offenders. This had to an extent been due to the case glut in our judicial system thereby protracting corrupt related cases. It is my view,

therefore, that for this country to make meaningful progress in our fight against corruption there is a strong need to establish special courts that will try corrupt and other related offences. This will provide the needed impetus to agencies charged with the responsibility of fighting this evil that had defied efforts geared towards eradicating its menace.

“The cost of governance in Nigeria is also an area that requires special attention. It is unacceptable for any nation that desires to make any meaningful development to devote 70 per cent of its revenue on recurrent expenditure. Measures must be taken to reverse this trend so that the larger percentage of our accrued revenue

is channeled towards development. As part of an effort to change the situation for the better, we should reduce the number of states in the country. Although, admittedly this is a very difficult task to undertake, it is my belief that we can revert to the 12 states structure which we successfully operated for about nine years without any adverse effect on the country.”

Replace NYSC with National Military Service- Alfred Diete Spiff
King Alfred Diete Spiff, who is representing the elder statesmen category, advocated for a change of the present National Youth Service Corps, NYSC to what he called National Military Service where Nigerian youths of 18 years would be engaged and given military training rather than what he termed, the present day, NYSC jamboree.

The traditional ruler, who made case for traditional rulers to be given a place in the constitution, however pleaded with his fellow delegates and other Nigerians to learn to give and take against the backdrop that there be will oil in the coast today, and tomorrow, in the Sahara.

 


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