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Conference: South-South delegates walk out ... reject 17% derivation proposal • Ex-military leaders banned

Posted by Gbade Ogunwale, Festus Owete and Musikilu Mojeed on 2005/06/14 | Views: 339 |

Conference: South-South delegates walk out ... reject 17% derivation proposal • Ex-military leaders banned


The National Political Reform Conference recorded its rowdiest session yet on Tuesday as delegates from the South-South walked out of the conference in protest against the conference’s decision to approve a marginal increase in derivation fund from 13 to 17 per cent.

The National Political Reform Conference recorded its rowdiest session yet on Tuesday as delegates from the South-South walked out of the conference in protest against the conference’s decision to approve a marginal increase in derivation fund from 13 to 17 per cent.

The decision was the outcome of several days of meeting by the Committee of Leaders of Delegations, headed by Professor Joe Irukwu and Alhaji Umaru Dikko.

When the matter was tabled at the plenary session on Tuesday evening, majority of the delegates supported the decision to marginally increase the derivation fund; but the South-South delegates rejected it outright.

Professor Kimse Okoko, who spoke on behalf of the delegates from the zone, alleged that the zone was oppressed and unfairly treated in what he described as a fundamental issue that brought the delegates to the conference.

Okoko said there was no consensus on the issue and that the zone had earlier rejected the increase from 13 to17 per cent.

He said that the issue should be subjected to further debate.

He faulted the procedure in which the decision was taken, saying that the mover of the motion for the adoption of the recommendation and the person that seconded it were both members of the Irukwu-led committee.

He said, “Procedurally, the motion to accept a committee report is not usually moved by members of that committee.

“The person that moved the motion for adoption of the motion and the seconder were members of the committee that prepared the report.

“Obviously, that is wrong and it must have been pre-arranged.

“We cannot accept that kind of premeditated, oppressive action to counter our fundamental interest that brought us here.

“Secondly, a member of the committee from the South-South dissociated himself from the decision today before we came to the plenary session.

“He said he was withholding his proposal for a percentage of derivation, which meant there was no consensus on that matter.

“The South-South delegates met to consider the presentation of the committee’s report this afternoon and the entire delegation rejected the so-called consensus in its totality.

“We reject the notion that there was any consensus.

“Unless and until the secretariat of this conference sends out the document through the committee to iron out the issue of non-consensus in some of these key areas, we do not consider it necessary, or in fact advisable to participate any further until the fundamental issue is resolved.

“That is the stand of the South-South and we are pleading that justice must be done and the question of resource control is at the heart of the South-South delegation.

“We are saying that resource control is subsumed under true federalism.

“Fortunately, the entire delegation agreed that we must practise true federalism, which means that federating units must own and control their resources.

“We are prepared to stay on so long as that is recognised and the oppressive procedure is withdrawn.”

Trouble began when the conference Chairman, Justice Niki Tobi, asked a member of the Committee of Leaders of Delegations, Chief Martins Elechi, to move a motion for the adoption of the report of the committee.

But immediately Elechi’s motion was seconded by a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim (SAN), Prof. Omafume Onogie moved a counter motion.

Onogie said, “I understand that those who moved the motion and seconded it were members of the elders committee.

“That arrangement was incestuous.

“I do not think that that represents the democratic procedure.

“There is no consensus. So we should return the issue to plenary.”

Though Mr. Idris Miliki from Kogi State duly seconded Onogie’s motion, it was nonetheless overwhelmingly defeated when it was subjected to voting.

At that point, South-South delegates became furious and immediately poured out of the conference chamber.

But Tobi decided to go ahead with deliberations despite the walk-out by the aggrieved delegates.

The decision to go ahead with the day’s proceedings caused more chaos in the chamber.

Most delegates who had expected Tobi to adjourn proceedings to allow temper to cool down were angry.

The former Anambra State Governor, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, and the President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mr. Smart Adeyemi, were especially livid as they insisted that further deliberations be put on hold.

When Tobi did not yield, Adeyemi and some other delegates in their part of the hall also walked out of the conference hall.

At that point, a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola, called Tobi’s attention to the conference’s Rule of Procedure which provided that when members were unable to arrive at a consensus on an issue, the chairman should adjourn proceedings to allow for further consultations.

Ajibola said, “The standing rule of this conference anticipated an evening of this nature.

“In a situation where things are so divided, a cooling period should be allowed.

“We will all go home and sleep over it and come back tomorrow in the interest of justice, peace and equity.”

Tobi, however, insisted that the motion on the tenure of president and governors, which had already been moved by Chief Ason Bur from Benue State, must be decided.

Commenting on the development shortly before the conference adjourned proceedings, legal luminary and delegate from Ekiti State, Chief Afe Babalola, said the country was at a crossroads.

Babalola recalled that as Chairman of the conference’s Committee on Federal Allocation and Fiscal Federalism, there were times people wanted to walk out but that God gave him the wisdom to control the situation.

He said his committee allowed time for tempers to calm down before continuing with its deliberation.

He promised to, along with other elder statesmen, reach out to the South-South delegates to persuade them to return to the conference.

In spite of the walk-out, the conference still went ahead to adopt a four-year renewable tenure for the holders of the office of the president and the governors and the creation of an additional state in the South-East zone, which has a total of five states, being the least among the six geo-political zone.

The conference also agreed that former military rulers should be banned from further ruling the country.

The recommendation was put forward by the conference’s Committee on Political Parties and Electoral Process Reforms, headed by the Second Republic President of the Senate, Dr. Joseph Wayas.

Before the vote was taken at the plenary session, Irukwu had presented the committee’s report amid a tense atmosphere.

He said that the committee agreed that those who took power by force or through unconstitutional means should be disqualified from contesting future elections.

Irukwu, however, said that the committee was unable to reach any consensus on the tenure of the president.

According to him, people were divided on the issue with some canvassing the maintenance of the status quo of four years double tenure without giving reasons for the position while others wanted the six-year single tenure.

On the funding of locals governments, Irukwu said the committee agreed that allocations should be made to states irrespective of the number of local governments in any particular state.

He said, “The committee recommended that the office of the president, governors and the chairman of local government areas, should rotate in such a way that all the geopolitical zones in the federation, states, local government as the case may be should have the opportunity to produce a president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, governor or local government chairmen alternating between the Northern and Southern part of the country and geopolitical zones, and the states and local governments respectively.”

He added that because of the emotive nature of rotation, the issue should not be included in the constitution but should, however, be given legal backing to ensure that political parties were enjoined to apply rotational principle in order to provide for equity, equality and justice in putting forward people for electoral offices.

On the electronic voting machine, Irukwu said members of the committee voted on the issue, with 24 people voting in support and 21 others voting against.

He said the committee agreed that the states should continue to be the federating units instead of the geopolitical zones as being canvassed by some.

Irukwu said the committee decided that the issue of the creation of additional states should be left open and that when a good case is made, the procedure for state creation as enshrined in the constitution should be followed.

On the immunity of the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, he said, “chief executives and executives at the state and federal levels are entitled to immunity in civil cases only.”

He therefore said immunity as provided in Section 308 of the constitution with regard to criminal cases in line with the procedure recommended by the Judiciary and Legal Reform Committee should be adopted.

Irukwu said that the committee accepted a Nigeria Police Force, which operates on the basis of community policing.

On the Independent National Electoral Commission and the conduct of local government elections, Irukwu said that having decided that the running of councils should be vested in the states and that power should as much as possible be devolved to the states, the committee recommended that the states should take care of their local government and its elections.

He said that the committee agreed that giving the supremacy of the constitution in the context of other laws any law or laws that are contrary to the constitution should be reviewed or amended to the extent of such inconsistency with the constitution.

Such laws, according to him, included the Land Divesting Act of 1993.

Although, the delegates from South-South walked-out in protest, the conference still adopted all the recommendations of the Committee of Leaders of delegations.

The Punch, Wednesday, June 15, 2005

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.