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Confab: Matters arising as delegates reconvene today

By Henry Umoru, Assitant Political Editor

National Conference delegates returning today are to be handed four bulky reports of the deliberation of the conference for final perusal before the conference finally closes shop expectedly this week.

Ahead of the reconvening, delegates were hopeful that those delicate issues earlier resolved or pushed on to the presidency would not be rekindled.

Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi had last month when adjourning the conference told delegates that plenary was adjourned until August 4, 2014 when delegates were expected to reassemble to approve the final reports of the Conference for presentation to the Federal Government.

Chairman of National Conference, Hon. Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi with his gavel at Conference on Monday in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.
Chairman of National Conference, Hon. Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi with his gavel at Conference on Monday in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

Date of resumption

The date of resumption was, however, changed from August 4 to 11 to ensure that the report was ready for the delegates to finally look at, append their signatures and then forward to the President.

Asked last week if the report would be ready ahead of today, Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications, James Akpandem spoke in the affirmative in a chat with Vanguard. “Yes, we are set.  The report is ready and is being reproduced, the volumes are currently being reproduced for delegates.”

“We have at least four volumes including the full report, the draft bills, the resolutions and appendices among others; and they are quite voluminous. It is hoped that before the scheduled date, the required number in the produced volumes will be available.”

 

Delegates speak

Giving her readiness ahead of today’s resumption, Iyom Josephine Anenih said, “I do not expect us to bring back the debate on derivation when we meet again because at our last meeting we unanimously agreed to retain the Committee’s recommendation of ‘not less than 13 percent, and then we agreed to recommend to the President to set up a Technical Committee as he pleases to look at the issue of revenue sharing taking into account all the various recommendations for allocation of funds to different bodies and institutions that other committees had recommended and conference had adopted. So for me that matter was decided and closed at our last sitting.”

Also in his contribution, a delegate representing the South South Geo- Political Zone, Senator Yisa Braimoh said, “I believe very strongly that upon our resumption next week,  we shall achieve Consensus at the last minute, even on the vexed issue of Derivation.”

For Yinka Odumakin, a delegate representing the South West zone, “The issue of derivation is already settled by the  conference as we have asked the president to set up a technical committee to advise him on the formula.

The constitution says derivation should not be less than 13 per cent, but didn’t say it can’t be more. He may go via a technical committee or do it by himself and he would not violate the constitution .

“The reason why derivation is contentious is that it is not all of us who are bringing money on the table to share. If all sections of Nigeria would go to work,the quest for higher derivation will become a national song on the lips of all parts of Nigeria. As far as 2014 conference is concerned ,debates are over.”

Also contributing, a delegate representing the North East Zone, Senator Saidu Kumo said, “ I want to inform Nigerians that the Conference has done meaningful deliberations and recommendations for the well being of Nigeria.

Meaningful deliberations

The only issue in contention before the adjournment was derivation and now that nerves have calmed and many representation, consultations and meetings have taken place, we are expecting now that we are going to resolve these issues amicably for the interest of this country.

Prior to the adjournment and during voting on the recommendations by the Committees,  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. Delegates in a voice vote, said, “there shall be no immunity for all elected government officials.

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.

Mineral resources

When the matter came up at plenary, for three days, there was a logjam as there was no compromise following strong arguments that the five per cent federal revenue  for rehabilitation, stabilisation of and construction of areas affected by insurgency in the  North East, North West and North Central should be for the entire country and not for the north alone. Delegates failed to conclude voting on recommendations of the devolution of Power Committee with Obong Victor Attah  and former Inspector- General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Coomasie as co- chairmen following very sharp disagreement between northern and southern delegates on the  controversial issue of resource control and proposed intervention fund for states affected by Boko Haram insurgency.

Specifically Conference formally adopted the Report of the Committee on Devolution of Power, but without conclusive decision on the vital issue of derivation principle and what percentage should be paid to mineral producing areas.

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 rehabilitateion of areas affected by problems of insurgency and internal conflict.


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