Shun new rules

Some people ‘re planted to disrupt confab — Kutigi

By HENRY UMORU, JOSEPH ERUNKE & LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU

ACTIVITIES were almost brought to a halt yesterday over sharp disagreements by delegates on the recommendation by Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi that new rules be adopted to fast track discussions in order to meet the confab’s less than five weeks deadline.

Following the stormy affair, Justice Kutigi said that from all indications, some delegates were ‘planted’ in the conference and saddled with the responsibility of making its outcome in-effective, adding that he was surprised that delegates could agree on issues only for them to return and start discussion on closed matters.

At the resumed session yesterday, there was a strong indication that problem was underway as proceedings which ought to have started at about 9 am was delayed till 11.20 am. After some banters and disagreements, the Conference went on break for 10 minutes to allow frayed nerves to calm down before delegates began deliberations on the report of the Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources.

Kutigi had on Monday introduced a new and shorter procedure for members to debate the various reports because of the need to fast-track the sessions since they were left with only five weeks. The conference is expected to round off and submit its final report to the President on July 17, 2014.

Kutigi said the leadership of the Conference resolved that rather than have a list of over 100 delegates register to speak on reports which he said was killing time, delegates who have amendments to reports will only submit their names a day to the presentation of the report.

Kutigi said: “Beginning from today, we only have five weeks to conclude the Conference and submit our recommendations to the government. We are proposing an amendment to the proceedings of the Conference. We are suggesting that when we call chairmen to present their reports, instead of calling on delegates to speak one after the other, we will skip that hurdle. Those who have amendments will be called to submit them to the secretariat. That will strengthen our efforts to do this thing.”

But before the new rule was implemented, Ms Annkio Briggs raised a point of order saying that she was not sure that the conference had adopted the issue ruled upon by the chairman.
Following the agreement, the conference adjourned for about 30 minutes before 6pm on Monday to enable delegates go home and prepare their amendments to the report meant for debate yesterday.

However, a heated argument on the issue prevailed on the floor yesterday, forcing Justice Kutigi to suspend debates and called for 10 minutes adjournment to enable the leadership reconcile the various views.
According to Kutigi, it is not parliamentary for a decision to be taken a previous day only for delegates to return to the plenary the following day to reject it, adding: “Some people are planted here to scuttle this conference.

We sit here and take decisions, we all agreed. Then someone would come back and say there was no decision at all. We agreed that we should listen to the chairman of any committee to read his report; we would then look at the recommendations and do amendments. Yet, some of you came back here and said there was no decision. That’s not right. Something that had been done, you will come back and say it was not done. That’s not true.”

Some delegates, though in a faint voice called the chairman’s attention to the word “planted”, which he used but Kutigi ignored them.
Following the stormy session, Kutigi was forced to adjourn plenary for 10 minutes and to hold a short discussion with his Deputy, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi and the Secretary, Dr. Valerie Azinge, before announcing his decision on the matter.

Return to old order
According to him, “After listening to what we have been saying, it is my ruling that we go back to the old procedure.”

While reverting to the old rule whereby every delegate willing to speak on a report would be called to do so, he however decried the attitude of members, lamenting that they would always insist on speaking on every subject introduced on the floor, adding, “even if it is only four reports we are able to conclude, we will submit the rest to government. It is my ruling that we go back to the old procedure.”

The decision did not, however, go down well with some members who expressed displeasure at the turn of events which, according to them, would affect the timely submission of the conference report.

Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani said: “If time is short and outcome was rushed, the Confab would not have done a good job for the country. Just voting on recommendations may not be the true reflection of the delegates.”

Also former Minister, Bashir Dalhatu said: “There must be an end to discussion and it’s through vote. Reopening concluded issues would put the Conference leadership in a negative situation if as the Conference progresses, a delegate that wants to reopen an already closed issue should be disallowed”.

Chief Olabode George, who noted that the leadership should give all those willing to speak a chance to do so, however, warned that the leadership should be firm in stopping those fond of repetition.
In his contribution, Senator Nnamdi Eriobuna argued that going by the seriousness of the Conference, delegates should be allowed to discuss all reports.

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