Premium Times reported today that delegates to the recently concluded 2014 “National Conference” have launched a fresh and elaborate bid to scuttle President Goodluck Jonathan’s plan to implement the report of the conference, PREMIUM TIMES can report today.
The delegates, under the aegis of Northern Delegates Forum, NDF, in a post-mortem presentation to
“stakeholders, institution and leaders” of the North, rejected some of the recommendations of the Confab, which they claimed were smuggled into the final report by the Presidency.
The 492-member Conference began on March 17 and ended August 21 when its report was presented to Mr. Jonathan.
When he received the report, which is in three volumes, including a “Draft Constitution”, Mr. Jonathan assured that the recommendations contained therein would be implemented.
“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.
“As I receive the report of your painstaking deliberations, let me assure that your work is not going to 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.”
In September, the president constituted a seven-member panel headed by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, to implement the report.
Mr. Jonathan reiterated his plan to implement the Confab report on November 11 when he declared his re-election bid.
“In the first quarter of this year, our country celebrated its centenary. To prepare the nation for the challenges of the next one hundred years, I convened a National Conference where recommendations and resolutions were reached towards a more perfect union. We shall implement the report,” he said.
During the period the conference lasted, the northerners, under the aegis of the NDF, co-chaired by former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie, and former Information Minister, Jerry Gana, objected to some proposals during plenary.
In a protest letter to the Chairman of the Conference, Idris Kutigi, in July, the NDF, opposed the “draft constitution” and demanded its withdrawal from circulation.
“We call upon the leadership of the conference to discountenance and withdraw the ‘draft Constitution’ and the accompanying bills which have been circulated,” the group said.
“We urge the conference leadership to table the draft conference report which contains only the resolutions openly and officially sanctioned and adopted by delegates for validation and adoption as provided for under the National Conference Procedure Rules, 2014 and as envisaged in the Work Plan adopted.”
However, in the latest protest, the Forum, in the 35-page document dated October 15, demanded the jettisoning of the report because it contains some recommendations allegedly smuggled in by the Federal Government.
The document, which suggested the President is working to discredit and weaken the region, is being widely circulated in the region.
It specifically said the proposal for the creation of 18 news states, their capitals and local governments was brought in by the government.
It said, “The importation of a new Nigerian map into the final report with names of additional states and their boundaries, new state capitals and local governments when in effect, the Conference plenary only stopped at presenting various memos received by its relevant committee attests to the description of the conference sponsors to level up, or surpass the North in number of states and local governments, using all foul means at their disposal.”
The Forum contended that it would be “offensive to rudimentary concept of justice” should new states be created on the basis of equality without consideration for land mass, population or economic viability.
“After all, injustice is not only when equals are treated unequally, but also when unequal (s) are treated equally.”
The northern delegates also said that the conference was characterised by a range of irregularities as some items and agenda, which were not part of the original mandates of the sub-committees, were smuggled in.
It listed such items to include issues of referendum, resource democracy and creation of additional states, which it said was not based on any known constitutional criteria.
The group argued that ‘referendum’ clause was neither assigned to any of the 20 Committees as agenda item nor discussed at plenary but nonetheless found its way into the conference report as a recommendation for constitutional amendment.
On “Resource Democracy,” the group it said was brought in by the sub-committee on Environment, though the mandate fell on the Committee on Devolution of Power.
“Nonetheless, the leadership of the conference allowed voice votes to be taken on them despite vehement protestations of several occasions,” it said.
“Again, all attempts to subject voice votes to actual voting were declined by conference leadership, contrary to the rules of procedure.”
The group further alleged that the government deliberately abused both procedure and criteria for selection of delegates at the conception stage of the conference.
It alleged that the government consciously staged-managed the conference as part of a calculated plot to weaken and undermine the unity of the North, while it pursued its consolidation agenda for a greater South.
According to the group, it is on record that the government was funding and working hand-in-hand with media barons from the South, especially of Niger Delta extraction who dominate both the electronic, print and internet-based media.
“That task was to feed the nation on diets of anti-North propaganda – lies, threats, and hate speech,” it said.
The group said apart from making oral and written representations to the Conference leadership, some faith-based organisations and Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, also made physical representations to both Mr. Jonathan and his deputy, Namadi Sambo, on disagreeable issues that arose in the course of the conference, but that there was no remediation whatsoever.
It claimed that the protest to the president was, instead, greeted with ‘addendum list’, which neither impressed, nor assuage the fears of the vast majority of Nigerians, and Northerners in particular.
“In fact, to insult the sensibilities of the North, the addendum list was made up of three legal practitioners from the South, with ties to the present government.”
It also said when the conference insisted on voting over the contentious issue of revenue derivation as it currently stands, the conference once again resorted to “escapism by hiding under the recommendation of the conference’s wise men committee to refer the matter back to the presidency, in favour of an advisory committee to settle the matter, amicably.”
The group therefore demanded that the Draft Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2014,” should be jettisoned while all decisions touching on the constitutional amendments as “proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999”.
It also called for the rejection of any documents purporting to be “Proposed Bills to Adopt a Draft Constitution, 2014.”
The group also demanded the rejection of the new map of Nigeria with additional states, and local governments, and instead subject all requests to scrutiny based on constitutional and other criteria.
It also asked the government to decline approval of diaspora voting and upward review of revenue allocation formula for oil producing states, which it said was as agreed by the confab.
It said, “Generally, reject all “smuggled” items that were otherwise not deliberated upon, or conclusively resolved in the course of the defunct National Conference such as removal of names of local government from Schedule II of the 1999 Constitution and other potentially harmful proposals to the North and Nigeria in that order.”
A member of the group, Sani Zorro, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES about the moves to stop Mr. Jonathan from implementing the report of the conference.
“It (report) is discredited. We don’t have a report because it has been discredited. We have circulated a pamphlet to the entire members of the National Assembly (on this),” he said.
Mr. Zorro, a former National President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, which it represented at the conference, said the Presidency smuggled in the 18 proposed states.
He said, “The Presidency came with these 18 states. We never knew anything about 18 states.
“In the Conference report, we mentioned those who submitted memoranda for the creation of state but we didn’t approve the creation of states or local government.
“But when it went to these people at the presidency they cooked up these because they said they want to bridge the difference between the North and the South. When they had done that they allocated eight to the North and they took 10.”
Efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to get the response of the presidency to the allegation, failed.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, did not reply a text message sent to him.
However, the spokesperson of the conference, Akpandem James, debunked the group’s claims.
“I have not seen the document you are talking about, however, how can they say the presidency smuggled something into the report and where did the presidency do that?” he told this newspaper in a telephone interview.
Stating that the report of the conference had since become a public document, Mr. James explained that it actually received requests for new states but did not recommended that the states be created.
According to him, the conference merely presented conditions to be met by the proposed states before they are created.
He said, “If any of the states meets the conditions then that they can be created. But these are merely recommendations and it is left for the government to accept or reject. If you look at those requests, many of them cannot qualify.
“The Conference did not create states. The Conference made recommendations based on proposals and the Conference made conditions for the creation of states.”