By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Ben Agande & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA — EXACTLY 158 days after he inaugurated the 2014 National Conference, President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, received the report of the confab and vowed that his government would implement the recommendations.
The visibly elated President, who said that Nigerians had shamed critics, who thought the exercise would dismember the country, added that the government would discuss the outcome with the National Assembly and the Council of State on how to implement the report.
Among other things, the conference made far reaching recommendations that could boost the socio-economic and political development fortunes of the country, if faithfully implemented.
The recommendations include: Creation of 18 additional states; adoption of modified presidential system of government that integrates the parliamentary and presidential systems; part-time bi-cameral legislature at all levels; re-introduction of the old National Anthem; removal of immunity clause for criminal offences; independent candidacy and abrogation of the local government as a tier of government; scrapping of State Independent Electoral Commissions, SIECs and stoppage of government sponsorships of Christian and Muslim pilgrimages to holy lands.
Others include: Sharing of funds to the Federation Account among the three tiers of government should be: Federal Government (42.5 per cent), State governments (35 per cent) and Local governments (22.5 per cent); in the modified presidential system the president shall pick the vice president from the Legislature and select not more than 18 ministers from the six geo-political zones and not more than 30 per cent of his ministers from outside the Legislature; President should reduce cost of governance by pruning the number of political appointees and using staff of ministries where necessary; presidential power should rotate between the North and the South and among the six geo-political zones, while the governorship will rotate among the three senatorial districts in a state. With local governments no longer the third tier of government, the federal and states are now the only tiers of government, states can now create as many local governments as they want. The Joint State/Local Government Account be scrapped and in its place the establishment of a State RMAFC with representatives of LG and a chairman nominated by the Governor. The Constitution should fix the tenure for Local Government Councils at three years.
The conference also recommended that special courts should handle corruption cases in view of undue prolonged trials and prosecution of corruption cases in the regular courts; and retention of Land Tenure in the Constitution but with an amendment to take care of concerns, particularly compensation in Section 29 (4) of the Act to read “land owners should determine the price and value of their land based on open market value.
The confab, however, could not resolve the issue of resource control, derivation principle and fiscal federalism. It said that assigning percentage for the increase in derivation principle, setting up Special Intervention Funds to address issues of reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas ravaged by insurgency and internal conflicts as well as solid minerals development, require some technical details and consideration. It therefore recommended that the government should set up a Technical Committee to determine the appropriate percentage on the three issues and advise government accordingly.
We’ve shamed our critics – Jonathan
Receiving the report, which is in 22 volumes and totalling 10,335 pages from the Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, a happy President Jonathan said critics who thought the exercise would disintegrate the country have been shamed with the achievements of the delegates.
According to him, all those who had predicted the disintegration of this country at the end of the nation’s first centenary would wish they chose another country against the backdrop that the possibilities of the new vision for Nigeria were being actualised.
He noted that the time has come for all Nigerians to put behind them all the drawbacks that inhibited the country from realising her manifest destiny and full potentials, saying: “We must steadily arrive at the juncture where strife, conflicts and mistrusts would become distant echoes of our past. We must make every inch of our country a space for joyous habitation. Our country must enter a new season of harmony, prosperity and happiness with justice abiding in every hamlet, community and our country. It is the dawn of a new day in Nigeria and the new nation is at the door accompanied by its great men and women, young and old.”
It won’t be a wasted effort
President Jonathan promised that efforts of the 492 delegates will not be a waste as government would ensure that the recommendations were implemented in the interest of the country.
He hailed the delegates for their tireless efforts and coming up with recommendations that will help chart a path of peaceful coexistence, sustainable development, justice and progress as the country marches into the second centenary, and stressed that as delegates, they had done their best, that the onus was now on the executive and elected lawmakers to compliment their job.
He averred that the ability of the delegates to disagree to agree is a clear indication that Nigeria has remained our collective good and we are capable of solving our problems through dialogue.
His words: “The success of this conference has proved the cynics wrong in many respects. Those who dismissed the entire conference ab initio as a “diversion” have been proved wrong as what you achieved has contrary to their forecast diverted our country only from the wrong road to the right direction.
“As I receive the report of your painstaking deliberations, let me assure that your work is not going be a waste of time and resources. We shall do all we can to ensure the implementation of your recommendations which have come out of consensus and not by divisions.
“The result of the conference has shown that we are not enemies, neither are we antagonists, no matter our religion, region, state, and tongue. This conference has reinforced what I have always believed- that Nigeria is here for our collective good.
“The discourse reflected our latest challenges. We shall send the relevant aspects of your recommendations to the Council of State and the National Assembly for incorporation into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. On our part, we shall act on those aspects required of us in the Executive.
“Let me reaffirm this: Nobody has a monopoly of knowledge. We who are in government need to feed from the thoughts of those who elected us into power. You have done your patriotic duty; we the elected, must now do ours.”
Why I didn’t intervene
President Jonathan, who gave an insight into why he never intervened in their activities of the confab said that he took that decision on the premise that the delegates were capable of coming up with how to move the country forward, adding: “One of the many reasons for our non-interference is this: We have at the conference, 492 delegates and six conference officials who in their individual rights are qualified to lead our great country and if they were unable to agree on how to take decisions, we would be in real trouble! Acknowledging the quality and patriotic content of the delegates, I was confident the right thing will be done.”
Over 600 resolutions approved through consensus –Kutigi
Earlier, Chairman of the Conference, Justice Kutigi disclosed that that at the end of the conference, more than 600 resolutions dealing with issues of law, policy and constitutional amendments were approved through consensus.
Noting that they tackled substantial and fundamental issues, he said adopting all the resolutions through consensus “is a message that we wish the world to hear loud and clear. Nigerians are capable of not only discussing their differences but are also capable of coming up with solutions to these difficulties.”
Justice Kutigi explained that with the submission of the report, “we have finally laid to rest the apprehension that a national conference will lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.