By Henry Umoru, Assistant Political Editor
AFTER 151 days of intrigues, maneuverings, backstabbing, threats, shouts, grandstanding, sentiments, show of patriotism, show of activism associated with Students and unionists, political compromise, among others, the 2014 National Conference finally came to a close.
The Justice Idris Kutigi led National Conference was inaugurated March 17, 2014 by President Goodluck Jonathan to among others objectives, expand the space for political and social discourse, to determine the future of Nigeria and to create a new political direction for Nigeria.
As delegates round off the assignment and return to their homes, places of work, a lot of issues were raised and agreed on for a better Nigeria. Delegates unanimously agreed that immunity for elected public officers be expunged and if the decision sails through, it means that the president of the country, the governors and all elected officers will no longer enjoy immunity.
It was recommended thus, “the Immunity Clause should be removed if the offences attract criminal charges to encourage accountability by those managing the economy.”
The Conference approved that all the three senatorial districts would now have the opportunity of producing governors as against the present arrangement in some states where it is close to a taboo for some senatorial districts to think of it, while that of the local government chairmen shall be rotated among the local government area.
The Conference also threw out the contentious issue of six- year single tenure for President, governors; it recommended an additional state for the South East geo- polical zone of the country as well as additional 18 states for the zones with a zone getting three new states each, just as it reverted to the old National Anthem as against the present one.
The very thorny issue of revenue Sharing could not be resolved by the delegates even with the intervention of the Elder Statesmen Committee.
The Elder statesmen came up with harmonised position of 18 percent derivation resource control as against the present 13. 5 percent for exploration and development of all mineral resources, not solid minerals as against the present 4.5 percent and 5 percent federal revenue for rehabilitation, stabilisation of and construction of areas affected by insurgency in the North East.
They also recommended, as part of the consensus, that 50 percent of money allocated to each state on derivation must go directly to the communities from which the mineral resources are extracted.
At the end of the day, it was a case of back to sender as the conference pushed same problems President Jonathan had asked them to solve for the country to him.
A position was taken that he should set up a Technical Committee that would advise the federal government on revenue sharing formula, the percentage of derivation to oil producing states, the mineral resources fund as well as the Special fund for reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas affected by problems of insurgency and internal conflict.
These were considerations agreed upon by the delegates following completion of debate and adoption of resolutions arising from reports of 20 committees that considered critical issues considered to have given rise to the convocation of the Conference.
The main report which is in two volumes with Volume one made up of 528 pages, Volume two, 906 pages, the draft constitution is 357 pages while the bill is 47 pages. Other documents given to the Delegates were votes and proceedings for the months of April, May, June and July.
The 357 page draft constitution as produced by the Secretariat did not go down well with the Northern delegates who described it as a plot to introduce third term agenda and dissociating themselves from the document.
Addressing Journalists in Abuja Tuesday, August 12 at at Gombe Jewel Hotel, Wuse11, Abuja, the Northern delegates noted that the draft Constitution as prepared by the Justice Idris Kutigi led Secretariat was a third term agenda designed primarily to allow for President Jonathan, other incumbent elective office holders whom they alleged as not qualified to contest to run for the election.
Speaking for them, the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF and former Inspector General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Coomasie warned that if the document which the Northern delegates described as a third term agenda was not killed at the conference, it would like in 2005, lead to anarchy, violence and chaos, adding, “Given the observation under (iv) above, adopting a new Constitution is therefore calculated to enable incumbent elective office holders who are statute-barred from going for 3rd Term at both Federal and State levels, to run for offices again under the guise of running under a new Constitution.
Flanked at the briefing after the over two hours meeting of the Northern Delegates by Mohammed Umara Kumalia; Lt. Gen. Jerry Useni; Prof. Iyorchia Ayu; Bashir Dalhatu; Gen. Salihu Ibrahim; Amb. Ibrahim Gambari; Air Vice Marshal Mutari Mohammed; Emir of Askira, Alhaji Abdullahi Ibn Muhammed, Coomasie continued, “If not arrested, the 3rd Term agenda, as in the past (2005), is capable of plunging Nigeria into another circle of political chaos with potential of violence and anarchy.
“We, Northern Delegates to the Conference wish to assure patriotic Nigerians, and all lovers of democracy, that we are neither privy to, nor were we accessory to the emergence of the controversial “New Draft Constitution 2014″. We, therefore, unequivocally disown it, and emphatically disassociate ourselves from it. Accordingly, we will have nothing to do with it, for the following legal, moral and political reasons.”
The next day, Wednesday, August 13, Southern and Middle Belt delegates led by former Federal Commissioner for Information and South South leader, Chief Edwin Clark who addressed Journalists, replied the northern delegates supporting the draft Constitution, saying there was no hidden agenda behind the draft Constitution produced by the Secretariat of the Conference, adding that it was an insult to allege that President Goodluck Jonathan was planning third term using the delegates.
The Southern delegates made up of South- South; South East and South West geo- political zones of the country and the Middle Belt described the draft Constitution as a product of resolutions reached by all delegates including the Northern delegates and stressed that if the entire report produced by the Conference was fully implemented by President Goodluck Jonathan, it would give birth to a new Nigeria.
With Chief Clark at the briefing were the leader of South West delegates, Chief Olu Falae; leader of the South East, Gen Ike Nwachukwu; Secretary General, Middle Belt Forum, John Dara; Prof. Anya O. Anya; Chief Raymond Dokpesi; Senator Aniete Okon; Charles Edosonwan, SAN; Col. Tony Nyiam; Ann Kio Briggs; Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN; Yinka Odumakin; Chief Femi Okunrounmu; Prof.Ihechukwu Madubuike, among others.
According to Chief Clark, rather than castigate the Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi and the Secretariat, they ought to have been commended for producing a perfect and very intelligent report, adding, “Fellow delegates. I think today is a happy day for all of us have being away for some time. And by the grace of God we’ll finish our work tomorrow. There are no issues that are controversial. We met for about four months and various issues were discussed, debated and about 600 motions passed by consensus. Everybody agreed. At the end of that we went on two weeks leave.
“We were surprised when we came back, volumes of papers reports, looking through them, we want to say it was a very good job.
The chairman, Justice Kutigi, his deputy and the Secretary and the entire secretariat, we congratulate them. The reports are three in volume and there are other ancillary papers. I assure you that if the resolutions contained in the report are implemented by government a new Nigeria would be born.
We have all learnt a lot for the last months, having been a politician for 50 years, what I learnt in this period is fantastic, so we congratulate the management headed by Kutigi.
“It was very unfortunate to learn yesterday that some delegates addressed a press conference on a so called new constitution. When we were discussing during the conference, we touched on many issues, some of which suggested constitutional changes, some policies.. What they have done is to put together all the proposed amendments to the 1999 constitution.”
Delegates on Thursday adopted the final report of the conference having resolved for the minor alteration of the title from “draft constitution” to “Draft proposals to Amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999”.
With that, the report was unanimously adopted by the delegates thereby bringing to an end, a 151 day 2014 national conference and the fulfilled and accomplished Delegates stood up and enthusiastically sang the old National Anthem “Nigeria We Hail Thee” and chants of labour solidarity songs also followed.
The oldest delegate and former Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN was called by Kutigi to move for the adoption of the final report while the youngest delegate to the conference, Miss. Yadomah Bukar Mandara seconded it.
A delegate on the platform of former Governors’ Forum and former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, gave the vote of thanks which received spontaneous applause from delegates and soon after the adoption of Votes and Proceedings of the day sequel to a motion by Iyom Josephine Anenih and seconded by Dr. Bello Mohammed, Justice Kutigi called on the Lamido Adamawa, Alhaji Muhammadu Barkido Mustapha to move a motion for the closure of the Conference.
Chief Mike Ahamba while seconding the motion, described Thursday, August 14 as a day of pride and honour because “when we came here, nobody expected us to end this way. We have disappointed the skeptics.”
History was then made as delegates took turn to pour encomium on the leadership of the Conference for their maturity in steering the conference proceedings and they embraced one another.
President Goodluck Jonathan, like the way he started the Conference March 17, and expected to close it on Thursday, August 21, 2014, it is hoped that at the end of the, the resolutions reached would be implemented; it is hoped that the President would subject the outcome to a Referendum as the view of delegates and Nigerians; it is also hoped that a better Nigeria will come as the resolutions will be implemented. Kudos to Kutigi, Prof. Akinyemi, the very diligent Madam Azinge, Akpandem, Indabawa, Yakubu, delegates and the media.