By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
As the 20 committees of the National Conference get set to submit their reports for debate on Monday, there has been a sharp division between the North and the South on the pattern of voting to be adopted for deciding contentious issues.

Saturday Vanguard learnt from competent conference sources that most of the chairmen of committees from the North were in support of open balloting on issues that cannot be resolved by consensus to ensure transparency and credibility of the process.

But their Southern counterparts, reportedly kicked against open balloting preferring a secret voting system so as to protect the delegates from any backlash.

Delegates at the on-going national conference

The northern chairmen tabled their position during a meeting called by the Chairman of the National Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, to agree on modalities for the voting.

Majority of the committee leaders from the South were said to have insisted that secret balloting was the most credible method of election worldwide.

But a Northern delegate, who attended the meeting, told our correspondent that it was in the best interest of the conference secretariat to ensure that the election was carried out transparently.

The delegate, who did not want to be quoted, said that as a result of the disagreement on between the north and south on the matter, the issue of voting pattern would first be resolved by the delegates before voting on any contentious issue takes place.

The committees are expected to turn in their reports on Monday for plenary to resume.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Devolution Committee and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, is said to have clashed with a Southwest delegate over the latter’s attempt to resuscitate onshore/offshore dichotomy during the committee’s sitting.

The former governor, it was learnt, had made it clear to all the members of his committee that as far as he was concerned there was no need to revisit the oil dichotomy, which had since been rested but remains a subject of interest to the North.

However, a top source said that the Southwest delegate, who is a legal practitioner, repeatedly ignored the position of the committee’s chairman and made spirited effort to bring back the oil dichotomy for adoption and inclusion in the report by the members, a development that infuriated Attah and led to a shouting match.

“Sit down and don’t mention the issue of oil dichotomy again,” Attah reportedly ordered the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.

Delegates from the South were said to have expressed concern over the action of the lawyer, whose motive, they said remained unclear.

But apparently to douse the tension over the oil dichotomy issue, the committee reached a compromise by agreeing to approve a new derivation principle of 4.5 percent on solid minerals for the North, which in turn backed down on its earlier demand for a downward review of 13 percent to five percent for oil-bearing states in the South.

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