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How I Was Misled, By Tobi

Posted by From Paul Ibe in Abuja on 2005/07/12 | Views: 456 |

How I Was Misled, By Tobi

The National Political Re-form Conference (NPRC) Chairman, Justice Niki Tobi, yesterday disclosed that he was misled by the information given to him and which made him call for a motion to adopt the report of the Prof Joe Irukwu-led committee.

The National Political Re-form Conference (NPRC) Chairman, Justice Niki Tobi, yesterday disclosed that he was misled by the information given to him and which made him call for a motion to adopt the report of the Prof Joe Irukwu-led committee.

The adoption of the report precipitated the deadlock at the conference over percentage to be allocated to derivation from the federally collected revenue and terms of office of governors and president.

But Justice Tobi, who hurriedly announced an indefinite adjournment of the conference after barely two hours into its resumed plenary, which had been on break since June 15 following the deadlock over the two contentious issues, said the latest break is needed for the secretariat to conclude all necessary work ahead of the endorsement of its report by the delegates.

And in what is his first reaction to developments which led to the deadlock, Tobi acknowledged that the conference may not have complied appropriately with the procedures. He said, "I took the procedure I took, which is a subject of the problem because of information available to me."

He said he was erroneously informed by the leadership of the Committee of Leaders that "everything was agreed upon (and) that there was consensus."
"And if there was agreement or consensus there was no need for any further debate," he added.

He, however, promised to "say it more permanently in another forum."
Before adjourning sine die, the conference adopted the report of the Committee of Leaders, which attempted without success to break the deadlock occasioned by rejection of the Irukwu committee, especially as it relates to 17% derivation and preferred tenure for president and governors. The adoption of the report was, however, not without some drama and controversy.
Before the recommendations of Committee of Leaders was adopted, Tobi made a passionate appeal to delegates to see the endorsement of the report, as their 65th birthday present to him.

"I want to appeal to your sentiments please let us get what we have done passed. My secretary will read it to you because we have done so much work. Even if you don't agree that one 'F' or 'X' should be there, please let’s pass this thing, come to us and we will deal with the clerical error.

"We have tried our best. I will tell you something, three days from now will be my birthday. I will be 65 and very seriously I need a birthday present from you, not a card, but the birthday present I want from you is what Father Matthew Kukah will read," he said.

Kukah then proceeded to read out the recommendations to the conference:
1. That all the recommendations of the 19 Committees of the Conference, except those relating to the contentious issues which were later referred to the Committee of Leaders of State Delegations for further consideration, be adopted as the recommendations of the Conference.
2. That the recommendations of the Committee of Leaders of State Delegations on the contentious issues on which the State Leaders reached agreement, excluding the issues of Resource Control and the Tenure of the Office of the President and Governors be adopted as the recommendations of the Confe-rence on the said nine issues.
3. That on resource control, in addition to the points on which agreement was reached in the Committee on Revenue Alloca-tion and Fiscal Federalism, the Conference recommended the following package:
• A clear affirmation of the inherent right of the people of the oil producing areas of the country not to remain mere spectators but to be actively involved in the management and control of the resources in their place by having assured places in the Federal Government mechanisms for the management of the oil and gas exploration and marketing.
• An expert commission should be appointed by the Federal Government to study all the ramifications of the industry including revenue allocation with a view to reporting within a period of not more than six months, how the mineral resources concerned can best be controlled and managed to the benefit of the people of both the states where the resources are located and of the country as a whole;
• An increase in the level of derivation from the present 13% to 17%, in the interim pending the report of the expert commission. Delegates from the South-South and other oil producing states insisted on 50% as the irreducible minimum.

Having regard to national unity, peace and stability, they agreed to accept, in the interim, 25% derivation with a gradual increase to attain the 50% over a period of five years.
4. That on the Tenure of Office of the President and the Governors, the Conference should consider and adopt the following recommendation:
The majority decision of the Conference was the retention of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution which stipulate a term of four years for the President and the Governors, including a possible re-election of an incumbent for another term of four years. However, the minority favoured the adoption of a single term of six years for the President and a single term of 5 years for Governors without the possibility of re-election.

After Kukah finished reading the report the conference chairman asked that delegates stand up and give a standing ovation, as an endorsement of the recommendations. The delegates obliged.

But leader of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Major General I.B.M Haruna (rtd.) observed that the recommendations had not been formally adopted. Justice Tobi, who was anxious to get the recommendations adopted and was overheard saying "these people want to put us in trouble again," however, gave Haruna the chance to move for the adoption of the recommendations.

He was seconded by Alhaji Abdullahi Bayero. But moves by President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Prince Smart Adeyemi, and host of others to move a counter motion were foiled. Former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Barnabas Gemade, and one other delegate that could not be readily identified were observed moving to the high table to confer with the chairman following which he (Tobi) ruled that the recommendations were taken as accepted.

Tobi, however, recounted the incidents that led to the walk-out and withdrawal and the steps that the leadership of the conference took in arresting the situation.

He said as soon as trouble started the leadership of the conference met with President Olusegun Obasanjo, who advised them to seek support from state governors. But he said that the President himself was not prepared to intervene directly because of the independence of the conference.
He disclosed that meetings held to resolve the crisis, including those with state governors "did not bear much fruit."

"After that, the leadership took a number of steps. The first one was that we went to Mr. President, we told him what was happening. And he advised us to speak to some governors; he viewed that the governors would be in a position to help. Recognising the independence of this body, he told us that he would not directly interfere and that he had spoken to some of them with a view to getting the conference going. We spoke to some governors, a few of them. They really appreciated our situation, they were sympathetic, but some told us plainly that they had no control over you; some said they will plead with you. We did not go to them with a view to giving them instructions. I want to say without fears of contradiction that our efforts with the governors did not bear much fruit.

"And so we had to look inwards. I called an adhoc committee meeting of two representatives from each zone. We met and that was the first committee I presided upon. I saw the desire on the part of the committee members to move the conference forward. We met in a frank atmosphere and with everyone saying that it was a good meeting. But what happened? Two days later it was media war. What surprised me was that it was the same persons who spoke beautifully at the meeting that featured in the terrible media war. After that I took another action, this time with the women," he said.

He said the meeting of leaders was a last ditch effort to break the deadlock ahead of yesterday's plenary and that he made it clear to all concerned that whatever happens, the conference will resume as scheduled.
He said after exhaustive debate of the issues "30 states and five zones agreed with the recommendations and rejection was only on one issue, the recommendation on resource control" by the South-south zone.

He said contrary to reports, some South-south delegates had continued to attend conference sittings despite the withdrawal of their delegation. Although he did not name the delegates, it was observed that NLC President, Adams Oshiomhole, former Senate President in the Second Republic and Cross River delegate, Dr. Joseph Wayas, PDP representative from the South-south, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia and Chief C. Abebe have been regular at plenary since trouble started at the conference.

"I will like to express my thanks and gratitude to those South-south delegates who did not walk out. And I also thank myself because I am from the South-south for not walking out. Nothing stops me from walking out in sympathy with South-south delegates because I am from there," he said to the delight of delegates present at yesterday's sitting.

Oshiomhole, however, told journalists shortly after the conference adjourned yesterday that the conference was a "huge failure" and that its "major deficit" was the confab's leadership.
"The greatest weakness of this confab is the leadership. I don't think that we can consider the conference as successful; it is difficult," he said.
He expressed worry that the confab was reduced to "an avenue of ethnic contest as if the nation has no spokesperson for Nigeria."

The labour chief regretted that the conference chairman relied "on the people he had handpicked to do the magic."

He said Tobi did not allow "pro-Nigeria organizations to play a part," a claim which found support in leader of the civil society, Mallam Shehu Sani.
"Instead, he handpicked individuals who in his judgement will be better able to solve the problem, and so, everything was reduced to one ethnic group against the other," he said.

Leader of the Northern delegation and Second Republic Transport Minister, Alhaji Umaru Dikko, however, considered the conference a success.
He said the conference has proven skeptics wrong that the leaders of Nigeria can "come together and discuss issues without exchanging blows, that we can talk frankly and honestly and that we are prepared to ensure that our country goes well."

He said the greatest commitment that all delegates had demonstrated is that the country should continue as one united, federation.
"I expect a Nigeria that will be willing to talk face to face with one another; will strive to solve the problem of every part and not just one part and be our brothers' keeper," he said.

Mr. Oronto Douglas, a delegate from Bayelsa, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) shortly after the Conference ended that the South South delegates had rejected the recommendations because they failed to "accommodate their feelings."

"We don't want to dignify the outcome of the Conference with our presence. Our views were not accommodated in the spirit of mutual understanding and respect, consensus, compromise and give and take," he said.

Douglas, who criticised the position of delegates from other zones, said they had denigrated the historical and political relationship between the zones.
He insisted on a minimum of 50 per cent derivation, starting from 25 per cent over a graduation period of five years.

The environmental lawyer also said that his people were demanding for rotational presidency, which must start from the South South.

While exonerating President Olusegun Obasanjo over the impasse recorded at the Conference, Douglas also denied allegations that the South South delegates were contractors working to foster the economic interests of their governors.
However, he confirmed that the South Southgovernors had facilitated and made the stay of their delegates in Abuja comfortable to enable them secure the interests of their people.

"I therefore urged all to stop making terrible allegations against us that would derail the object of the Conference," he said.

Federal Government nominee and Presidential Adviser on Political Matters, Prof. Jerry Gana insisted that the input towards a single tenure was made in good faith taking cognizance of the experiences of the last six years.
He said the greatest challenge facing the conduct of elections in the country is the factor of incumbency, which he said is often abused to the disadvantage of new entrants.

He said until this matter is addressed we would continue to face the same subversion of electoral processes.
He, however, said people like him who had supported a single tenure would settle for whatever option the government decides to adopt in the overall interest of the nation.

Sani, however, dissociated civil society from yesterday's recommendations. He said the group was marginalized out of the decision taking process.
He said since the group was not part of the elders' committee that recommended 17% derivation it could not endorse the outcome of any process in that regard.
He added that what has happened is a negation of conferences of this nature in which "people decide, people debate and people collectively resolve" adding that the conference "only ended up with bringing their positions which is forwarded to the government."

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Comments (24)

ur so boring(To, Northern Territory, Australia)says...

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ur so boring(To, Northern Territory, Australia)says...

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