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Confab averts North's planned walk-out

Posted by From Akpo Esajere and Mohammed Abubakar, Abuja on 2005/06/17 | Views: 329 |

Confab averts North's planned walk-out


The National Political Reform Conference was hurriedly adjourned yesterday apparently to allow for the cooling of passions, which had risen sky-high in the last one week.

The National Political Reform Conference was hurriedly adjourned yesterday apparently to allow for the cooling of passions, which had risen sky-high in the last one week.

The immediate effect of the adjournment was to stave off an alleged resolve by Northern delegates to stage their own walk-out yesterday over procedural matters.

Leaders of Northern delegations had on Wednesday written formally to the confab leadership rejecting what they called procedural irregularity that resulted in the enlargement of the business committee, which was to reconsider or amend positions on some contentious issues.

The chairman of the conference, Justice Niki Tobi had said that the conference would not be extended as there was no money to cope with the extension, but going by the present circumstances, it may be extended by one week from Wednesday according to government sources.

The extension is to allow for the resolution of some contentious issues, especially resource control and the service tenure of the president and state governors.

Some delegates said yesterday that the issue of tenure would have to be revisited and proper division taken on it. Chairman of the draft committee, Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN), told The Guardian yesterday that most of the drafts had been done and waiting for ratification. He said once the contentious issues are resolved, they will be inserted into the draft, which is ready and then presented.

South-South delegates had on Monday staged a walk out citing manipulation of proceedings to impose 17 per cent oil derivation formula against their will. Pockets of sympathy walk out were also staged by South-East and South West delegates.

In a letter to Justice Tobi on Wednesday, the Northern delegates said they would not participate in any session designed to revisit contentious issues.

Yesterday, they arrived at the floor of the conference evidently out to block any move to revisit issues.

But Justice Tobi, who delayed resumption for one hour, spoke for about 10 minutes and immediately adjourned proceedings till Wednesday next week.

South-South delegates were conspicuously absent from yesterday's brief sitting. While other delegates converged at the International Conference Centre venue of the talk, South-South delegates were closeted in the Rivers State luxury flats at Wuse II in downtown Abuja to hammer out what they termed "minimum irreducible position" on the contentious issue of resource control.

According to their letter to the conference leadership, which was to be dispatched yesterday, they demanded 25 per cent derivation with a yearly five per cent increment for the next five years, leading to attainment of 50 per cent derivation in five years.

They said in the letter: "As we had maintained throughout the conference, the mandate of our leaders, youths and entire people back home on the crucial issue of derivation component of resource control was to stick to the irreducible minimum of 50 per cent in line with the 1960 Independence Constitution and the 1963 Republican Constitution.

"However, having regard to the need for unity, peace, stability and our solid resolve to continue to be our brothers' keeper, we are compelled to accept in the interim, 25 per cent derivation with a graduated increase to attain the 50 per cent over a period of five years."

Justice Tobi did not touch any of these issues yesterday. The Guardian learnt that the chairman was at the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Obong Ufot Ekaette, for about two hours on Wednesday evening to discuss the atmosphere at the conference.

Justice Tobi, still bouncy despite pressures, said yesterday that the conference had not gone out of control.

"I must say that the past one week or so must have been fairly rough with me and I found myself having to arrest the turbulence, and like I said, we will certainly arrive at our destination," he said.

The conference chairman continued: "Somebody told me there is no Nigerian conference that hasn't experienced walking out and walking in. And so, what happened to us is not unique. But we have to handle the matter cautiously. We do not want to throw away the baby with bath water. We want to take advantage of the baby together with the water."

The Northern delegates' letter to the chairman, entitled: "Re: Alleged irregular proceedings at the conference", reads:

"We, the undersigned are the leaders of the Northern states delegations, wish to write to Your Lordship on matters of urgent importance.

"On March 11, 2005, the Conference at plenary adopted the Standing Orders (Rules of Procedure) under the guidance of which it conducted all its subsequent proceedings. At the conclusion of general debates over the recommendations of the various Committees, Your Lordship, apparently relying on Order 10, Rule 2, constituted the Committee of Leaders to the Conference, under the leadership of Chief J. Irukwu and Dr. Umaru Dikko, to review some 11 items considered to be contentious with a view to generating consensus on them. On June 14, 2005, this Committee presented its report and recommendations to the Conference.

"Under Order 6, Rule 1 (a), a motion for the adoption of this report was moved and seconded by a delegate. A counter-motion urging for the rejection of the report was moved and seconded by other delegates. Thereafter, and under Order 10, Rule 3, a division was called and Your Lordship, quite rightly, declared the motion for the adoption of the report as passed. In consequence, some delegates walked out of the Conference, after they have voted and lost in the division.

"It should be noted that (a) at the time of the division, the Conference was duly constituted as to quorum in accordance with Order 4, Rule 1, (b) the two motions were duly moved and seconded, (9c) at the time voting took place there was no allegation of any irregularity or defect.

"Subsequently, the sole contentious issue, over which the Leaders Committee was unable to reach a consensus, namely the tenure of the President and governors, was properly and duly put to vote. Without giving any reasons, some delegates withdrew from further proceedings. Conference, by an overwhelming majority, adopted the two-term of four years each as provided under the 1999 Constitution.

"Consequent upon their walk out, Your Lordship, on June 15, 2005, announced the enlargement of the Business Committee to include Leaders of State Delegations to look into what had transpired the previous day with a view to 'forestalling a stalemate' in the proceedings of the Conference. This Committee, under the leadership of Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim and Chief Emeka Anyaoku, met and held consultations and dialogued with the aggrieved parties. As a result of this consultation, the committee was informed that the reasons for the walkout were the allegation of 'procedure irregularity' in the conduct of the proceedings of the Conference the previous day.

The Committee has now agreed to recommend that (a) the delegates who walked out should be asked to return to the plenary and (b) the allegation of procedural irregularity be examined.

"With all due respect, we wish to notify Your Lordship as follows:

(1) We are satisfied that what transpired on the floor of the Conference that day was and remains procedurally sound, correct, proper and untainted by any irregularity;

(2) We reject unequivocally an attempt, which has the tendency to reopen, review, rescind, reconsider or amend all decisions taken on that day under the guise of addressing purported allegations of procedural irregularity as this will amount to a flagrant violation and disregard of Order 3, Rule 3 and Order 6 Rule 2.

(3) We review any attempt to proceed along the lines recommended by the Committee as irregular. What is worse, it may lead to unnecessary and avoidable polarisation of delegates at the Conference;

(4) We urge Your Lordship not to take any steps or measures, which will cause any stalemate in the proceedings at the Conference;

(5) We are unable and unwilling to participate, under any guise or pretext, in any decision to re-open matters already decided by the Conference according to its Standing Orders. To do that will, in our considered view, amount to participating in the commission of flagrant irregularities, an act that may taint the legitimacy and credibility of its entire work and recommendations.

"We therefore urge Your Lordship to proceed with the conclusion of the consideration of the remaining items on the report and recommendation of the Leaders' Committee."

The letter by the South-South Delegates' Forum entitled: "The walk-out by South-South delegates:" reads:

"We, the Leaders of Delegations of the South-South geopolitical zone to the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC), hereby write this letter sequel to the earlier one written to Your Lordship (copy attached), following our Delegations' withdrawal from the Conference on Tuesday, June 14, 2005.

"The kernel of our grievance, flowing from the procedural flaws pointed out in our earlier letter mentioned above, was the rejection of the 17 per cent derivation offered to us by the Committee of Leaders to the conference, which sat on Monday, June 13, 2005.

"As we had maintained throughout the Conference, the mandate of our leaders, youths and entire people back home on the crucial issue of derivation component of resource control was to stick to the irreducible minimum of 50 per cent in line with the 1960 Independence Constitution and the 1963 Republican Constitution. However, having regard to the need for unity, peace, stability and our solid resolve to continue to be our brothers' keeper, we are compelled to accept in the interim, 25 per cent derivation with a graduated increase to attain the 50 per cent over a period of five years.

"The above position is in addition to all other recommendations already made by the Committee of Leaders to the Conference in respect of Resource Control under Item 1 of the recommendations as presented by its Chairman, Prof. Joe Irukwu at the Plenary Session of Tuesday, June 14, 2005.

"Mr. Chairman would agree that the South-South Delegates have been very accommodating at the Conference in pursuing issues dear to our heart and impinging on the very survival of our people. We have, in the spirit of give-and-take and the imperative to redesign a great nation where no person is oppressed or marginalised, bent over backwards from our earlier demands in the overall interest of our great country.

"As the bearers of the brunt of petroleum exploration and exploitation, we live with a devastated and polluted environment, inhospitable and fragile terrain that makes infrastructural development difficult and very expensive and the trauma of constant gas flaring that condemns our people to the ravages of acid rain, permanent day light, new and unknown diseases, and untimely deaths.

"In stating our position, we are aware and mindful of the need for national stability, cohesion and consensus-building amongst all delegates to this conference. We thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your untiring efforts in seeing to a just and amicable resolution of this crisis with a view to doing justice to all parties concerned.

"We pray that God gives you the courage to do what is right and just, and the wisdom to bring the Conference to a successful end."

In adjourning the sitting yesterday, Tobi declared:

"Due to circumstances apparently beyond my personal control now, I will with apologies to you to adjourn the conference till Wednesday, June 22.

"I will like delegates to have some rest, it's not been easy. You have been here for sometime now, I want you to meet your families before you start receiving petitions from your wives or husbands. I don't want to be party to any divorce petition. Go and sit with them."

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Comments (3)

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown