BY HENRY UMORU, JOSEPH ERUNKE & LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU

DELEGATES disagreed sharply yesterday on how the outcome of the National Conference should be implemented. They bickered over whether or not their decisions should be sent to the National Assembly for consideration or subjected to the approval of Nigerians through a referendum.

Confab: From left, Mr Christian Udechukwu, Chief Dan Nwanyanu, Chief Victor Umeh and Senator Ike Nwachukwu discussing during National Conference in Abuja . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

While most delegates want the report to be taken to the parliament to formally give it a legal force, others vehemently challenged the view, countering that taking the report to the people through a referendum was the best option.

For instance, Magdalene Dura, a delegate from Benue State while making her contribution to the matter reminded the conference that it did not have powers to make a new constitution for the country.
She further stated that the 1999 constitution which is currently in use was sworn to by the President and as such was still relevant and binding on everyone.

“We do not have any powers to make a new constitution for the country. The law does not recognise referendum. The president has sworn to uphold the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that constitution is binding on him and everyone,” she said.

Similarly, Senator Mimibariya Amange, a Federal Government delegate cautioned that care should be taken in referring to the 1999 constitution as an illegitimate document.

“If the constitution is illegitimate, Mr. President is illegitimate and this conference is also illegitimate. We can call for referendum. This body is not a legitimate body. We can advice or appeal to Mr. President to put our recommendation to plebiscite. After that, the president can forward the recommendation to the National Assembly.”

Senator Femi Okurounmu from the South-West, in his own contribution, backed an earlier suggestion that the conference should categorize the report into three volumes, accommodating the harmonized constitutional issues, policy matters and judicial issues agreed by the conference.

“I agree with all those who agree that our report should be in three volumes but I think we need to do more than just forwarding the three volumes to the president. We have a duty not just to forward the recommendation but also to recommend how the outcome of the conference should be used. We need to set up a committee to prepare a draft amendment constitution taking into consideration all the amendments we have made at this conference,” he suggested.

Okurounmu’s contribution got support from Senator Adefemi Killa, who represents the Nigerian Society of Engineers at the conference.

He said: “I share the view that a committee should be created to push our recommendations. We need even three committees. We need to lobby the executive to make sure that our policy issues are executed on time. There is no way we can rush aside the National Assembly. They are elected people. We need a committee to lobby the National Assembly so that whatever we arrive at would not be countered.”

Senator Iyochia Ayu, North central zone and Ibrahim Coomasie, a former Inspector General of Police agreed with the view that the recommendations of the conference should be forwarded to President Goodluck Jonathan.

“We are not a constitutional conference but we are a very important conference. We should put together our recommendations and send them to Mr. President. He works with the National Assembly. We were not elected. Second, we are not equal. There is disparity in the number. I require that we divide our recommendations into three,” Coomasie said.

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