THE National Conference was forced to adjourn yesterday following a last minute effort by some elder statesmen among the delegates to forge a consensus on a benchmark for the payment of derivation to mineral producing areas of the country.
The delegates drawn from across the six geopolitical zones it was gathered met from 9 p.m. on Monday to 1.00 a.m. on Tuesday before resolving to continue meeting after yesterday’s plenary session of the conference.
Yesterday, delegates had resumed debate on the report of the Committee on devolution of Power with many canvassing disparate positions on derivation.
While some canvassed the retention of the existing 13%, others canvassed an increase to 21.5%; 30%; 50%, 100%, among others.
With deliberations not gone too far, the chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi announced an unusual short break of 15 minutes.
Though the short break was designed by Kutigi as a tea break, it became an opportunity for high wired politicking among delegates who gathered in caucuses.
An indication that the meetings were productive, delegates stood up clapping for Kutigi when he entered the hall after the short break at 12. 45 pm with the singing of the old National Anthem, with much emphasis on “ brotherhood we stand”
Kutigi who thanked delegates for what took place, said, “we are grateful for showing the appreciation.”
The conference Deputy Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi then disclosed that a document was distributed on the Land Use Act by the Harmonization Committee and that the Committee has been on it for a month now, even as many delegates raised their voices that they were not given the document.
Following that, Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd.) stood up and told delegates that leaders of the six zones met on derivation but that the meeting was still inconclusive and pleaded for more time saying that the meeting of 18 delegates drawn from across the country was from 9 p.m. Monday and ended 1am yesterday morning.
Supporting Ike Nwachukwu, a delegate representing the North East Zone, Mohammed Kumalia explained that the delegates should give them another opportunity to continue with their plans to forge a consensus on derivation.
Speaking with journalists after the adjournment, a delegate on the platform of elder-statesmen, Chief Edwin Clark said, “A few of saw what was happening and we decided to meet. We reached out to a few elders of the North – former IG, Ibrahim Coomassie, Prof. Jerry Gana and somebody from the north east.
“Then Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, Chief Olu Falae and myself. So we met and we said this is one country; we may have areas of disagreement but we belong to one country. If at our maturity, age, experience we cannot formulate what should be agreed to by all the sections then we have failed.
So let’s meet again, the previous meeting was scuttled so we sat down and agreed that three members each from the six zones should represent their respective zones. So it was eighteen members.
We met last night and took a decision on the matters we are discussing.
“At the end of it all, we were coming to an agreement but we couldn’t finish. That is why we decided that we should inform the house that the discussion continues. So we have adjourned to go and discuss again and conclude on what is good for Nigeria and what is good for the various components of Nigeria. We need one another to live in this country. As I have always said, we are all the same, equal and we should be friendly to one another. We have no other place to go.
“Those of us fighting for derivation are not doing so because we want derivation for derivation sake. Our area has been devastated, the ecosystem is gone, we have no water to drink, yet we sit on top of water. We have no fish to eat. When you go to the riverine areas of the Niger Delta, ice fish is now the order of the day and no farming. You remember the UN report on Ogoniland. Even though Shell left there over ten years ago, the pace is still devastated and polluted.
That was why the UN said the pace should be cleaned up over the next twenty years with the sum of over one billion dollars. But nothing has been done there. “