Adjourn plenary until Monday
BY HENRY UMORU AND LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU
THE leadership and delegates at the on- going National Conference, yesterday adjourned plenary until Monday next week following the death of Hajiya Maryamu, wife of conference chairman, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi (rtd).
Maryamu, aged 70, died at the National Hospital in Abuja at about 2 am on Wednesday and was buried same day according to Islamic rites.
Delegates had arrived at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, venue of the conference ready to continue deliberations on the report of Religion Committee and with possible voting for the Tuesday controversial issue of scrapping boards of Pilgrims board as a follow up to the unanimous agreement that Federal and state governments should no longer fund Christian and Muslim pilgrimages.
The conference was forced to adjourn abruptly on Tuesday to come back yesterday because of the storming session witnessed when the issue of scrapping Pilgrims Welfare Boards came up, forcing the presiding officer and Conference Deputy Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi to call for a motion for adjournment.
At yesterday’s resumed session, Deputy Chairman of the Conference, Professor Akinyemi, who presided over a brief conference session and announced the death of Kutigi’s wife, told delegates that it was only proper that the conference be adjourned to enable delegates participate in the burial.
Delegates, who readily and unanimously agreed to the proposal for adjournment expressed shock at the death and the fact that Kutigi could still preside over proceedings until the last day of sitting, while the wife was in the hospital.
Akinyemi described the late Maryamu as a pillar of strength to the Kutigi and regretted that she had passed on at a time the retired Justice was handling a critical national assignment and needed her closeness and wise counsel.
He said that it was in demonstration of his deep sense of patriotism and commitment to the affairs of the country that Justice Kutigi continued to preside over the Conference throughout the period the wife was lying ill in the hospital.
People in leadership
Akinyemi said, “distinguished delegates, it is with a sense of deep sorrow that I announce the death of Hajiya Mariamo Idris Kutigi, the wife of our honourable Chairman. She died at 2 O’clock in the hospital this morning.
And that the chairman in spite of the fact that his wife has been in the hospital for this time, had been attending sessions every day is indicative of the sacrifice that people in leadership make. The burial ceremony will be at Gudu Muslim cemetery at 11 O’clock.
You will agree with me that it is only proper and human to adjourn our sittings so that we can attend this ceremony. It is my understanding that you don’t wish to meet tomorrow which is a public holiday. That was the feeling from the hall. If that is right, we will then adjourn until 9. O’clock Monday Morning.”
Continuing, he said “this conference will stand adjourned until 9 O’clock, Monday morning. Thank you.”
But in a statement by Conference Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications, Akpandem James, the leadership of the Conference said, “before the adjournment on Wednesday, delegates had earlier in the week agreed not to have plenary session on Thursday May 29 which has been declared a public holiday by the Federal Government in celebration of Democracy Day.
The statement read: “It was agreed that proceedings at the plenary will resume on Monday June 2 with deliberation on more reports of committees and adoption of recommendations contained in the reports. Before the immediate adjournment of sitting on Wednesday, Conference had indicated its readiness to conduct debate on the report of the Committee on Public Finance and Revenue headed by Senator Adamu Aliero with Senator Azu Agboti as deputy chairman.
“Also slated for resolution on Wednesday were issues arising from previous committee reports that were put in “bracket” by the principal officers of the conference due to objections raised when they came under consideration.
“Such issues include the recommendation by the Committee on Land Tenure and National Boundaries that the Land Use Act be expunged from the constitution for easy amendment of the Act for the benefit of the people.”
Also, he said “some of the delegates were opposed to the recommendation while others applauded it; a situation that forced the presiding officers of the Conference to put the issue in “bracket” and appoint some delegates from every section of the country to meet and resolve the impasse.
Another of such issue placed in “bracket” by the presiding officers surfaced on Tuesday during deliberation on the report of the Committee on Religion that recommended the establishment of what it called Religious Equity Commission (RECOM).”
“The committee stated that the commission would have the statutory mandate of advocacy, enforcement of constitutional religious rights such as freedom of religion, freedom to acquire land for religious purposes, among others. While some of the delegates said the National Human Rights Commission should be empowered to handle such issues, others believed the new commission would serve useful purposes”, he stated.
Besides, the committee “envisaged the RECOM to serve as a platform that would bring individuals of the major religions in Nigeria to interact and crystalise ideas that would foster unity and tolerance; as well as monitor and investigate and expose cases of religious discrimination and violation.
The body was also meant to monitor cases of religious extremism – both in ideology and practice – and formulate counter narratives that are balanced and tolerant to neutralise such extremism.
“It would have equally served as a watch dog and enforcer of religious rights of all persons, thereby creating confidence and trust in every Nigerian no matter their religious affiliations while also monitoring and investigating cases of hate speeches and utterances meant to incite religious tension and prosecute persons responsible.”
“When arguments for and against could not be resolved before close of session on Tuesday, the presiding officers decided to put it in abeyance till the next sitting. Also put in abeyance was the recommendation by the Committee on Religion for the scrapping of the Pilgrims Welfare Board or its movement to the Foreign Affairs Ministry following the adoption of the recommendation for non-sponsorship of pilgrimages by government at any level.
“Some of the delegates were of the view that scrapping the welfare body would hinder preparation for pilgrimages while others believed retaining the board would be counter-productive since government’s non-involvement in pilgrimages had already been resolved and adopted”, he stated.