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Bola Tinubu- Yoruba leaders didn’t invite me to confab meeting.


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Former Governor of Lagos State and national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu,

has said he did not attend the Friday meeting of Yoruba leaders on the proposed national conference because he was not invited. A group, Yoruba Committee on National Conference, had met at the Isara-Remo, Ogun State-home of an elder statesman, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, to strategise on the selection of delegates for the South-West geopolitical zone ahead of the conference. Some of the prominent Yoruba leaders at the meeting were Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State; Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti; former Minister of Finance, Chief Olu Falae; Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd.); activist lawyer, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite; Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi (retd.); Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu; and the convener, Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare. Speaking to our correspondent on Saturday, Tinubu’s media aide, Mr. Sunday Dare, said there were attempts by some leaders in the South-West to sideline other Yoruba leaders, especially those in the APC. He said, “Have you asked whether they (APC leaders) were intimated about the meeting? There was no communication whatsoever. There was an attempt by a group of self-appointed Yoruba leaders to isolate some other persons. And this has been going on for a long time. “There was no information out there, whether in the public or privately. And it is not possible for these leaders — the APC leaders or the Yoruba leaders in the APC — to go for a meeting they don’t know about; a meeting they were not invited to. It is not possible.” Also, the Publicity Secretary, APC, Lagos State chapter, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said it was left to the people to judge whether they were the leaders of the Yoruba nation or not. He said such a meeting without Tinubu and the APC governors from Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and “probably” Edo states was incomplete. Igbokwe said, “There are leaders, there are also leaders. We, as the followers can choose where we want to be. They are leaders in their own class. I can’t deny Chief Ayo Adebanjo; I know him in the days of the locust. I can’t deny others but there are leaders and there are also leaders. “Asiwaju and the governors of the APC states (in the South-West) were not there. If you’re doing something in the South-West and you cannot find the APC leaders who have about 90 per cent control of the leadership of the zone, then what are you talking about? It means that there is a lacuna.” But his Ogun APC counterpart, Mr. Sola Lawal, said the opposition party was still opposed to the conference and would not attend such meetings as a result. He stated the party had made it clear that the conference must be attended by ethnic nationalities only. He said the party’s opposition to the confab had been justified by the announcement that the memorandum from the exercise would be subjected to legislation by the National Assembly and that the recommendations by the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference had been widely criticised. Lawal said, “As progressives in the APC, we do not believe in that conference because we have not seen the sincerity of the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration to put the conference together.” Contrary to the claim that he (Tinubu) was not invited, Ayo Adebanjo was quoted in a national daily newspaper on Saturday as saying that Tinubu and other APC chieftains rebuffed efforts made to invite them to the forum.

Source: Radio Biafra.

National Conference just before another jamboree.


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President Goodluck Jonathan has released the modalities for the convocation of a National Conference with limited powers.

Expectedly, criticisms have been trailing the modalities. The seriousness of the Federal Government has been questioned by many stakeholders. The consensus of opinion is that, for another three months or more, delegates will participate in a government-sponsored jamboree in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Since the premise for the national dialogue is not the ethnic nationalities, many have also argued that the exercise is an imposition.

However, pro-Jonathan forces have a contrary view. They believe that the conference will chart a new course for the country. Hailing the President for acceding to the popular request for a national debate, they also said that the conference will lay a better constitutional future.

When the President unfolded his plan for the conference on October 1, last year, many stakeholders queried his real intention. There were speculations that the idea was sold the option to the embattled leader to douse the mounting national tension. But, the sudden change of heart by the Commander-in-Chief still came as a surprise. In the past, Dr. Jonathan had objected to it, saying that a democratic government was in place. The proposal polarised the polity. A section said that the Federal Government was trying to divert attention from its gross failure to restore hope to the beleaguered country. In particular, the advocates of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) were not amused. In their view, the proposal fell below expectation.

Public enthusiasm has been waning since the Presidential Advisory Committee headed by Senator Femi Okurounmu submitted its report to the President. It was a divided committee. A minority report surfaced. It was written by a member of the committee, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN). The bone of contention was the method proposed for the ratification of the conference report. While the majority report hammered on parliamentary ratification, the minority report emphasised the import of ratification by a referendum. The majority report on the mode of ratification reflected the President’s view. Last year, Dr. Jonathan told the nation that the report will be sent to the National Assembly for ratification. The implication is that the decisions reached at the conference may or may not be approved by the National Assembly.

The fear expressed by critics were confirmed last week when the Secretary to the Federal Government, Senator Pius Ayim, released the guidelines. 492 delegates are expected at the talk show. They are to be drawn from the strata of the society: government, traditional institution, political parties, judiciary, and civil societies. They are to be nominated by local, state and federal governments. Thus, it is “guided conference”.

The ethnic nationalities may not command a strong voice there. Observers have argued that nominees may not have the mind of their own. Since he who plays the piper dictates the tune, the presidential nominees will be his eye and ear at the conference. The delegates may therefore, be manipulated by the government to achieved a pre-determined goal.

The official name of the dialogue is The National Conference. This is antithetical to a Sovereign National Conference. There is a no-go area. The Federal Government is sensitive to the warning by a foreign body that the country may disintegrate next year. Therefore, it stated that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. The time frame is also suspect. The government has proposed three months. But, it is evident that the conference will coincide with preparations for the 2015 general elections.

The timeframe for the nomination of delegates is between now and February 20. Wide consultations may not herald the nominations. In outlook, the proposed conference is elitist. The President may have also played a fast game. He is not indifferent to the position of the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), on the vexed issue. Therefore, if the 17 APC governors refuse to nominate delegates, Dr. Jonathan, an Ijaw from the Southsouth, will nominate delegates on their behalf. These delegates may come from the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Critics will describe their assignments as “jobs for the boys”.

The delegates are expected to receive remuneration. But, funding for the conference is another hurdle. Although the conference is expected to commence proceedings this month, there is no assurance that the budget would have been passed before next month.

The script was carefully written at Aso Villa, the seat of government. But, The President needed an ally to sell the dummy. He found one in Senate President David Mark, who was saddled with flying the cart. The retired General, who had frowned at the agitation for the conference in the past, based on his belief in the legitimacy of the National Assembly as the anchor of popular rule, suddenly retraced his steps. Thus, many believed that the conference propaganda was designed to gage the public mood.

Historically, at critical points in national history, past governments have resorted to camouflage national debate, talk or dialogue to douse the tension. Indeed, when the dreadful dictator, the late Gen. Sani Abacha, set up a constitutional conference in 1994, the uprising in the Niger Delta stopped for one year. The Abacha conference was made up of 396 delegates. The late head of State nominated 96 members. Although the report of the 1994/95 conference did not see the light of the day, the delegates succeeded in dividing Nigeria into six geo-political zones. The six geo-political regions are not backed by law, but the structure is respected by the political class. Also, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurated the Abuja Reforms Conference, expectations were high that it would usher in a new dawn. The conference collapsed on the altar of the third term agenda. Of 400 delegates, Obasanjo nominated 50 delegates. Many delegates, who have reflected on the report, have called for the implementation of the report. Former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu, who also nominated delegates, has backed the call for the retrieval of the report from the dustbin. He said since resolutions have been passed on many of the issues that the delegates are going to debate in Abuja, the Federal Government should have the courage to implement the 2005 report.

Shortly after he assumed the reins, the first military Head of State, the late Gen. Thomas Auguyi-Ironsi, set up an ad hoc constitutional committee to debate the contentious issues tearing apart the country. The committee was dead on arrival. At the inception of the military rule, soldiers in power lacked the political skills to handle those sensitive issues and problems which the military intervention had compounded. When the Muritala/Obasanjo set up the Constitutional Drafting Committee and Constituent Assembly, the transition to civil rule programme of the regime received a popular acclaim. Even, when the former President Ibrahim Babangida set up the Constituent Assembly in 1989, it calmed down the nerves. But, the report also did not see the light of the day.

President Jonathan’s first step at implementing the proposal was confusing. He named an advocate of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), Dr. Okurounmu, as the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee to prepare the ground for the talk. But, the committee was on tour of the six geo-political regions to collate views on modalities, the President announced that the National Assembly will debate the conference report. The statement irked many people. But, the members of the committee became deviated from their terms of reference when they were defending the President. When the team led by Okurounmu visited Benin, the capital of Edo State, for consultation with the Southsouth stakeholders, a committee member, Col. Tony Nyiam, took on Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Thus, the committee was censoring public opinion on the conference.

During the debate on the proposed conference, members of the National Assembly were not aloof. In the beginning, they loathed the idea of conference, pointing out that the nation should not waste time on another Constituent Assembly that will be saddled with the business of constitution making at a time the National Assembly is also reviewing the constitution. But, when reality dawned on them that the conference would be inevitable, they indicated a deeper interest. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu said in Lagos that it will not be a bad idea, if the legislators are also delegates. He explained that federal lawmakers are also stakeholders. However, the agitation for the inclusion of the legislators was doused when the President announced that the report will be ratified by the National Assembly.

According rights activists and leaders of the ethnic nationalities, a conference, on its merit, is not a bad idea. The obstacle to its success in the past was the lack of sincerity by the government. Since it is not going to be a SNC, many rights activists have submitted that the scope of the national dialogue will be essentially limited. There are some puzzles: If a constitution is expected to be fashioned out by the conference, should there be no-go areas? Can a national conference produce a truly peoples’ constitution? Should the government insist that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable in a country that has not become a nation, 100 years after the amalgamation? How will the suitability and competence of delegates be determined? If they are nominated or appointed by the government and influential elite as it is being proposed by the Federal Government, will their nominations meet the criteria for representativeness and legitimacy? How popular are the delegates at the grassroots? Would they have the mandate of the people who are emotionally attached to the ethnic nationalities? Now that the nomination is based partially on the ethnic nationalities, states, local governments or constituencies, what will be the ratio of representation? Will the proposed single term of six or seven years resurface at the conference for debate?

There are other questions: since delegates be appointed by the governors, what is the criteria? What will be the terms of reference? How will they emerge across the states? Will the conference resolutions be subjected to referendum? If it is not subjected to a referendum, how will the report or resolutions be validated? If it is not validated by a referendum, will it be legitimate? Will recommendations be accepted by the government, if delegates oppose the proposed ratification by the National Assembly? Will the report be thrown into the dustbin as usual? The Federal Government has said that resolutions on contentious issues would be taken, based on the approval of 75 percent of delegates. 75 percent of 492 is 369 delegates. How about resolutions that mainly touch on the lives of the minority tribes, who may not be adequately represented? Will the majority not trample on the wish of the minority?

Since the eighties, the agitation for a Sovereign National Conference had gained prominence. It was first articulated by the legal luminary, the late Chief Alao Aka-Bashorun. The deceased human rights lawyer said that it was possible to hold the conference in Nigeria. He urged the government to tap from the experience of the Soviet Union and the Republic of Benin, which resolved some of its problems by convoking conferences. Throughout the military rule, Aka-Bashorun was harassed for his principled position on the national question and agitation for a Sovereign National Conference.

Also, in the nineties, the former Oyo State governor, Chief Bola Ige, who summed up the arguments for the national conference, raised two questions: “Do we want to remain as one country? If the answer is yes, under what conditions?”. The implication is that a debate is necessary to determine the basis for peaceful co-existence and harmony. Ige said that many national problems could be resolve by debate, instead of resorting to the barrels of gun.

Following the annulment of the historic June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola, there was disillusionment. The cancellation disputed the basis for peaceful co-existence among the competing tribes. The advocates of the SNC expanded the national question. Discussion on the resolution of the identity, integration, participation and distribution crises came to the front burner. Stakeholders came to the conclusion that Nigeria was hanging on a flawed or defective federal system. The unitary system foisted on the polity by the military had created strains. But the interlopers opposed the struggle for a new order with brute force.

Up to now, these questions remained unsolved: Is state or community police not desirable in a big, diverse, heterogeneous country characterised by multiplicity of traditions, customs, and languages? Should the governors, who are the chief security officers of their states, continue to obtain permission from the distant Inspector-General of Police to maintain law and order? Should an Igbo or Yoruba, who was born and bred in the North be denied political and economic rights, owing to the tension between indigeneship and residency? Should a Fulani/Hausa, who had lived in the South for 30 years be edged out of the participatory political process? It remains to be seen if these questions will be answered by Jonathan’s National Conference, which has limitations. Does the President needs a conference to fight the infrastructure battle, tar the roads and fund education and public hospitals efficiently? Does the President needs a conference to build refineries, fight corruption and resolve the crises that have engulfed his party? Does he need a conference to guarantee power supply?

Posted by: EMMANUEL OLADESU

Source: Radio Biafra

Lobby for confab delegates intensifies.


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ABUJA—FOLLOWING last Thursday’s release of  modalities for the proposed National Conference, an intense lobby by politicians and other people, who want to be nominated as delegates has ensued.To be part of the 492 wise men and women to be saddled with the task of reshaping Nigeria, some serving commissioners are currently pressuring their state governors for a slot. According to the modalities, each of the 36 state governors is expected to nominate three delegates. The presidency, which is expected to nominate about 70 delegates is also being pressured, Vanguard gathered. Already, some ministers considered to be in President Goodluck Jonathan’s good books are being bombarded with phone calls by people angling for a seat at the confab table.The civil society organisations, political parties, ethnic nationalities and other stakeholders are not left out. Many of them will hold crucial meetings on the issue this week.Leaders of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) will meet today to deliberate on whether or not to participate in the conference. APC is one of the five parties slated to nominate 10 delegates.The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which is in support of the conference, said it would meet to nominate its two delegates, once it gets a letter from the Federal Government on the matter.
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said last week that it would convene a meeting soon to pick its nominees just as the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) urged all stakeholders to send their First Eleven to deepen deliberations at the conference. President of the South-East, South-South Professionals of Nigeria (SESSPN),  Mr. Emeka Ugwu-Oju, who disclosed that the group will also meet this week, to take a position on the dialogue modalities, said “it will be sad if the governors nominate their houseboys as delegates because their states and geo-political zones will lose out. They must endeavour to nominate people who can represent their states well.”Meanwhile, to get the proposed dialogue going, the Presidency will, this week, write stakeholders, who are expected to nominate their delegates on or before February 20.A presidency source told Vanguard, yesterday, that the Presidency will look at the issue today and start writing the letters to drive the process.The disclosure came as the World Igbo Congress (WIC), the apex organization representing Ndigbo all over the world backed the stance of the Professor Ben Nwabueze-led Igbo Leaders of Thought that the modalities released by the government did not meet the expectations of most Nigerians for convening a confab that will address the multifarious problems of the country.Asked if APC would take part in the conference, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party’s interim publicity scribe, said: “The party will meet tomorrow (today) to take a decision on it” and declined further comments.Select your delegates, prepare agenda, FG tells Nigerians
The Federal Government advised the various interest groups in the country to prepare their agenda to be presented at the conference rather than dissipate energy on whether the President Jonathan administration had a hidden agenda.Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Alhaji Ahmed Ali Gulak, said “we have to advise every interest group that has the interest of Nigeria as its agenda to go and do their home work and take it to the national conference. We have a feeling that those attacking the proposed conference are those who have nothing to offer and would be the first to jump up to claim that the other ethnic groups have outsmarted them.”According to Gulak, the Federal Government has no other agenda than “to secure the peace, stability and unity of the Nigerian state. As the government in power, the Federal Government, will not abdicate its responsibility and allow anarchists to take reins of the country. We are committed to the welfare of Nigerians, the President swore an oath to accomplish these things. It is an open agenda which is not the subject of the conference.”He continued: “We want people to do their home work and present their best team because when they fail to do so, they will not blame the President for their failure.”APGA ‘ll participate –Umeh
Speaking on the conference, APGA  National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, okayed the modalities and assured that the party would participate in the exercise.His words: “APGA will participate in the conference. We support the modalities released by the government. We cannot miss this opportunity of helping to save the country. The Nigerian situation is becoming very serious and the national conference has become imperative. Let people come together, let’s dialogue, look at Nigeria and things that are making the country unstable and find solutions to them. We are happy with President Jonathan’s commitment to the National Conference.”Asked when the party would nominate its delegates, he said: “We are waiting for the letter from the Federal Government. When we get the letter from the Federal Government, which is the official line of communication, we will meet and pick our nominees.“We welcome the programme for the conference. We urge all Nigerians to participate. The Federal Government has made it a broad all-inclusive conference. All segments of the society are involved. Those opposing the national conference are not patriotic enough. We cannot pretend we can get our acts together without dialogue.”On whether the requirement of 75 per cent majority of delegates to resolve contentious issues would not undermine the exercise, Umeh said: “The conference will proceed with the unity of Nigeria as no-go area. Other things will be discussed. There are open wounds, which only the truth and good conscience will heal. There are issues that will be tabled and people will see the glaring injustice. If delegates at the conference fail to address such open wounds, it means clearly they want Nigeria to divide. Only unreasonable people will oppose good demands.”Youths seek more slots
Meantime, Nigerian Youths, weekend, protested 18 slots given to them, saying if truly the conference is to reposition the future of Nigeria, 18 delegates cannot represent over 60 percent of the country’s population.
Consequently, a group known as Re-Orientation Advocates of Nigeria (RAN) tasked the Federal Government on the nomination of more youths. The President of RAN, Mr. Charles Folayan in a statement in Abuja, said the reserving 18 slots for over 70 million youths was unacceptable.According to him, “We agitated earlier for 30-50% representation in our communiqué at the National Youth Summit on Peace and Security held in November last year, we are also very much concerned on how the government is going about it even now that the youth council is in crisis as giving priority to any faction of the council will be out of place.“The president had earlier said that the conference is meant for the younger generation, so the selection of the younger generation must not only be credible, but also significant, we are so much concerned that the number stipulated on the plan for the youth is insignificant. Youth group should be given up to 100 delegates not 18.”WIC backs Igbo Leaders of Thought’s stance
Picking holes in the modalities, Engineer Obi Barth Oyibo Thompson, a member of WIC Board of Trustees, said: “Although there are defects in the modalities released by the Federal Government, the World Igbo Congress supports that Ndigbo should participate in the proposed National Conference.”He advised against Ndigbo boycotting the Confab, but rather should go there and insist on the terms  of association of Ndigbo with other nationalities as articulated by the Prof Nwabueze–led Igbo Leaders of Thought. “The Igbo predicament in Nigeria is a challenge to the conscience of all ethnic nationalities and geo-political zones or Regions in Nigeria. It is a moral wound, inflicted over a long time by injustice, that must be cured. What is important is the quality of Ndigbo representation and that is why Igbo Leaders of Thought are going ahead to complete the task of articulating the Igbo position. There is nothing absolutely sacrosanct as to how an existing Constitution may be replaced by a new one.”Obi Thompson  advised that “although nobody should go to the conference to seek dissolution of Nigeria, it should be emphasized that the right of self determination is a fundamental sacred human right. The Conference should therefore be about discussing conditions whereby it is attractive for each stakeholder to happily and freely exercise this right within the framework of one sovereign Nigerian nation.”On selection of South-East delegates, Obi Thompson said  “nobody is contesting the collectively cherished ideal of Ndigbo speaking with one voice through Ohanaeze” but since the issue of leadership of Ohanaeze appeared currently subjudice, a  better approach might be a conciliatory process whereby all other socio-political cum cultural groups come together with all factions within Ohanaeze for the purpose of selecting their delegates.On Igbo support for President Jonathan, he said: “If the Conference successfully gives birth to a new Constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Jonathan would have built for himself a formidable and appreciative constituency across the length and breadth of Nigeria whose support will overwhelm the combined opposition of APC and PDP and sweep him into land slide second term victory. The President should note that our objective is to ensure that he succeeds in this undertaking. If he achieves this, he becomes the undisputed father of modern Nigeria, thus sharing the same spot of honour in our history as accorded to Sir Herbert Macauley and Rt. the Hon. Nnamdi Azikiwe, as the genuine protagonists and patriots of a true and sincere One Nigeria.”This is another jamboree –Tsav
Speaking on the confab in Makurdi, the Benue State Capital, former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said  it is “another jamboree by the federal government that would serve no useful purpose.”
According to him, the conference will serve as a conduit pipe for wastage and siphoning of the nation’s scarce resources.His words: “The proponents of the conference are only doing it to distract Nigerians from the avalanche of challenges that we face as a people. As far as I’m concerned, the conference is a misplaced priority. The critical problem facing the country and derailing its growth and development is nothing but corruption which is the reason why we are all lamenting and crying in this country.“How can anyone suggest the convocation of another conference in Nigeria when the recommendations of previous ones that were held by past governments in this country have not been implemented. The bane of the development, peace and progress of this country is corruption, if this is tackled every other thing will fall into place.“How can a government that encourages high level corruption convince Nigerians that it is sincere with its policies and programmes when we all know that people who have been declared wanted for corruption charges are being daily celebrated by this administration. As far as I am concerned, the Jonathan’s conference will not be different from the previous ones, nothing new will come out of it. In fact, it will provide a basis for looting and another reason for wastage and drainage of the nation’s scarce resources.”Ex-minister advocates six-year single termAhead of the conference, former Minister of Science and Technology, General Sam Momah, has advocated for a six-year single term in office  for the president and governors.Noting that after every four years the government spends huge sums of tax payers’ money to conduct elections at the expense of the needed socio-economic development by the people, he said apart from huge costs of conducting the elections,  the “ four-year term does not give any executive enough room to complete or conclude any programme it starts. In Africa, no incumbent loses an election, even though it happens, it is difficult, because he makes sure he spends state money to win that election. So, if he knows he has a single term he does his best and leaves.”He further stated that issues the national conference would address had overtaken the constitution amendment by the National Assembly, since the constitution amendment was temporal, but he urged the National Assembly to continue with what they were doing as it was their assignment.”
BY  HUGO ODIOGOR, CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, PETER DURU, GABRIEL EWEPU & CALEB AYANSINA.

Source: Radio Biafra.

The National Conference, The January Uprising And The Labour Civil Society Coalition By Jaye Gaskia.


By Jaye Gaskia

In the last few days the FGN has released its working document for the convening of the National Conference. We now know the government is proposing 492 delegates, of which 46 will be nominated by the President, 108 by governors [that is each governor will nominate 3 delegates], 1 by the FCT [which presumably cannot be nominated without the consent of the president], and another 26 by the Federal Government [as if the President and the FCT are not part of the Federal government]. In total though the number of government nominees is 181.

We also now know that the conference will sit for no more than 3 months, and that the only thing presumably off limits is the unity of Nigeria. And to add to the ambiguity of the government, the conference is to advice the government on how its recommendations might be implemented. In other words, the government is leaving the decision as to whether its recommendations should be processed by the NASS or validated through a open referendum.

There is so much to be said about the way and manner that number of delegates have been allocated to different organisations and constituencies. Nevertheless, my focus today is on the dialectical and unbroken connection between the demands we made during the anti-military struggle, as well as the implicit demands we made during the January Uprising; and the current concession in playing to the gallery by the current regime and dangling the national conference, in this symbolic year of the centenary of the amalgamation.

The same forces which formed the core, the driving and most consistent force of the anti-military and June 12 revalidation struggles, were also central to the January Uprising; in fact by the time of the January Uprising of 2012, they had reached a position, where they were in direct and actual leadership of the uprising.

These alliance of social forces and formations, had come to be known as the Labour Civil Society Coalition, by the time of the January Uprising, and it was as thus that the alliance waged the battles inherent in that uprising. For the avoidance of doubt, and for reasons of historical clarity, these alliance of social forces, these labour civil society coalition, is made up of the two Labour Centres [the NLC and TUC] and two pro-labour citizens’ coalitions [JAF and UAD].

The government, and the entire ruling class [including those of them who became emergency activists and came to plead for podium space during the uprising] recognised that the government and the order over which it was presiding was almost overthrown by the deepening ferment of uprising in January 2012. And somehow in the event of the overthrow, a Sovereign National Conference could very well have been convened by the victorious uprising to fill the vacuum in governance and reorganise society.

Much more than ourselves however, the government and the entire ruling class does recognise and seem to be fully aware of the potency of the power of the mass movement. And this recognition and awareness is now demonstrated in the concessions made to the popular masses and exploited subordinated classes and their organisations, not only with the offer of convening a national conference [cheeky as that offer is], but also in rejecting for all intents and purposes the idea of an ethnic conference, and embracing the position of ordinary Nigerians that we are first and foremost defined by our material condition of existence and not by our ethnicity.

But even more significant is the implicit, if not explicit recognition of the labour civil society coalition. In our recent history, this is the alliance of social forces that has consistently challenged the exploitative misrule of the ruling class, and their treasury looting spree. This was the coalition that coordinated and prepared for the January Uprising, it was the coalition that negotiated on behalf of the Uprising with the Government [the whole government, including state and federal government as well as executive and legislative delegations; with all the major political parties also represented].

To this historic coalition, the current regime has conceded 48 of the 492 delegates positions; 12 to the NLC, 12 to the TUC, and 24 to Civil Society  – that is 12 each to JAF and UAD].

In the first instance although this is a concession to the popular movement, the arrangement and mathematical calculations of delegates made by the FGN is such that Pro-FGN, and therefore Pro-PDP delegates will constitute an overwhelming majority in the conference. Nevertheless, 48 is a significant minority, and if the 48 delegates of the Labour Civil Society Coalition, can conclude within the conference, a broader alliance, much as they did in 2012 during the January Uprising, then the number of pro-people delegates could very well get to up to a third of the conference.

Given that the FGN has also listed several other civil society organisations by name, including NBA, NAWOJ, NUJ, NANS, NYCN, NMA, etc among others, and given that many of these specifically named civil society organisations participated in the January Uprising and coordinated within a broader alliance with the Labour Civil Society Coalition, concluding a pro-people alliance within the conference should not be too difficult a task to undertake.

Two or three explicit facts in the government schedule lead us to make the implicit interpretation that is being made. First, government actually names other civil society organisations by name; second, it went on to now specifically mention a civil society that it allocated 24 delegates to; third, it allocated the same number of delegates, that is 24 delegates, to the combined labour team, as well as to what it referred to as civil society.

We are convinced and persuaded that these 48 delegates were a concession to the labour civil society coalition of the January Uprising [ NLC, TUC, JAF & UAD – each bloc with 12 delegates apiece].

We are not only convinced about this, we also claim this, and insist that one very sure way to actively and proactively engage with the National Conference process is to ensure we have a significant present inside the conference, as well as mount a significant mass mobilisation through mass nationwide rallies outside the conference, and throughout its duration in order to have any chance of realistically influencing its decisions and outcome.

At the very least we can come out with a minority report, with the basic building blocks for a new constitutional order, and around and upon which we can then build a popular mass political party as the real alternative to the parties of the light fingered, gluttonous and inept treasury looting ruling class – ConservaThieves and ProgressThieves alike!

There will be some ultra left radical within civil society who will insist that we should stand aloof from the conference and continue to shout powerlessly from the roof top outside. To them we say, we cannot hope to undertake the task of transforming society with the masses without being present in their most decisive battle fields.

Since hopefully they understand the language of marxism, and the recognise and respect the example revolutionary experience; to them we commend the example of the Bolsheviks in the conservative Russian Duma [assembly] during the period between the 1905 revolution and the first world war. The Bolsheviks, under Lenin’s leadership used the Duma as a revolutionary tribune to promote the cause of revolution and the people.

We are proposing an adaptation of these tactics. Just as the attitude of the Bolsheviks changed to the Duma after the 1905 revolution, our attitude to conferences such as this one ought also to have been transformed by the experience of the January Uprising. Our duty is to seize the space and use the floor of the conference as a revolutionary tribune, a tribune of the people.
It is time we take further concrete steps to Take Back Nigeria.

Follow me on Twitter: @jayegaskia & @[DPSR]protesttopower]; and interact with me on FaceBook: Jaye Gaskia & Take Back Nigeria.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Sunday Musings: On this Matter of the National Conference By Mobolaji E. Aluko.


By Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD

My People : The Federal Government recently announced the modalities for the much-awaited National Conference, following the submission of the report of the Okunrounmu-led  Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue.

On this issue of a National Conference, despite misgivings from various quarters, I am in general support provided:

– the process is as inclusive as possible; this has implication for length of time allowed for it as well as the character, number and process of choice of the delegates  [I recommend below six months rather than three months now announced by the FGN.]

– the total number of delegates in the Final Conference should not be unnecessarily wieldy. [Well, my recommendation below reduces the total number from 492 to anywhere between 426 and 479 – not much a reduction, but now with significant re-distribution among the various categories of delegates.]

– there is greater clarity in how and who does the selection and/or election of delegates

– while not an Ethnic Nationalities Conference, sufficient weight to their views must be built into the National Conference [I recommend below that the Ethnic Nationalities representation should be one-quarter to one-third of the total delegates.  Their number should therefore be increased from 90 to 107 (for one-quarter representation) or 160 (for one-third representation)]

– government choice of delegates should be as few as possible; this actually builds in more legitimacy, not less. [Instead of 181 (or 37% of total delegates), I recommend below  only 20 (19 Elder statesmen and the Chairman of the Conference) chosen by Government (President or Governors or FGN) – that is about 5%.]

– we increase of Diaspora representation from 8 to 12 (splitting America into USA (2 delegates), Canada (1) and South America (1), and Asia into Near Asia (2 delegates) and Far Asia (2 delegates), with Europe and Africa having 2 delegates each.]

– the cost of the National Conference is minimal [N4.7 million per person per month appears too high.  A breakdown of how this N7 billion total cost estimate was arrived at would be helpful.]  However, what is worth doing is worth doing well, and if it costs high, so be it.

– it ends up in a new Popular Constitution, complete with a Referendum,  not tinkering with the current one;

– the new Constitution forms the basis of the 2015 Presidential elections

Other recommendations will be found in tabular form below.

The recently-announced Modalities for the Conference don’t all expressly allow the above – but one hopes that some or all of my recommendations below will be considered before the National Conference begins.

And there you have it.  Comments are welcome.

 

Bolaji Aluko

-The National Conference

S/N

Item

Decision of FGN

Aluko Commentary

1

Official name

The National Conference

Missing is the adjective “Sovereign”, but I can let that go

2

Venue

Abuja

Final one may be Abuja, but there should be many mini-conferences first, AT least in the capitals of each of the states to ensure greater inclusivity

3

Duration

Three months

Too short: six months are recommended

4

Discussion Topics

Almost all or any subject matter….except….

Should be ANY subject at all

5

No-Go Area

Indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as a nation, therefore the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable;

This “No Go” area not necessary.  Allow those who want division and dissolution to be shouted down – or hailed – at the NC, then we shall see.  Be assured that Nigeria is not going dissolved anywhere…..so why fret?

6

Conference management

Secretariat to manage, administer and run its affairs

Okay

7

Decision Making

By consensus; but where it is not achievable, it shall be by 75% majority

Okay

8

Purpose of National Conference

To advise the government on the legal framework, legal procedures and options for integrating the decisions and outcomes of the national conference into the Constitution and laws of the country

Just to advise integration? No – it should be to OUTLINE a new Constitution entirely, not tinker with the old one.  NBA (Body of SANs) should be drafted to technocratically DRAFT the Constitution before a Popular Referendum, which should be given to National Assembly/President for formal assent only. The Constitution should be enacted before and be the basis for the 2015 Presidential elections, otherwise it should be POSTPONED until after then, otherwise NC might be a wasted effort

9

Conference Leadership

A Chairperson and a Deputy Chairperson of unimpeachable integrity

Okay

10

Delegate Nomination Period

Begin Thursday January 30 and end Thursday, February 20, 2014

Has already presumably begun, but  the ability of “getting together” of many of the named Stakeholder groups in order to nominate their delegates is very  nebulous

11

Method of Nomination

List of nominees shall be submitted either online to www.osgf.gov.ng or in hard copy to the Office of the Permanent Secretary (Special Duties Office), Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Federal Secretariat Complex, Phase I, 3rd Floor, Central Business District, Abuja.

Okay, but nothing is on www.osgf.gov.ng is available yet to do this nomination there. At least, I visited to nominate one or two persons (don’t ask me who.)

12

Period of NC

March to May 2014

Too short – March to August 2014  minimum

13

Approximate Cost

N7.00 billion

Ehn – N14.2 million per person, N4.7 million per person per month for three months? Let’s see the breakdown in terms of cost of venue, materials, accommodation, food, general conference services,  transportation, honorarium  – and legal “incidentals”.

Modalities for the nomination of the delegates

S/N

Stakeholders

FGN Number

Of Delegates

FGN Specifications

Nominator

(according to FGN)

Aluko Commentary

Recommended number

1

Elder Statesmen

37

One per state and the FCT

President

Too many – 3 per geo-zone + FCT are enough

19

2

Retired Military and Security Personnel

18

One delegate per geopolitical zone each from the Military, Police, State Security and National Intelligence Agency

Stakeholders

Too many – one per geo-zone, mixed such that 2 each from the services

6

3

Traditional Rulers

13

Two per geo-political zone and one from the FCT

Stakeholders

Okay – but just specify (chosen from one of the Chairmen of the Council of Chiefs by them)

13

4

Retired Civil Servants

6

One per geo-zone

Stakeholders

Why?  Some of the delegates will fulfill this anyway.

0

5

Labour

24

Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, to reflect Geo-political and gender balance

Stakeholders

Too many

12

6

The Organised Private Sector

8

NECA, MAN, NACCIMA, NESG, two delegates each

Stakeholders

Too many – one each enough

4

7

Nigeria Youth Organisations

12

National Youth Council of Nigeria and National Association of Nigerians Students, NANS, shall each nominate six delegates, one from each geo-political zone,

Stakeholders

Okay

12

8

Outstanding Youths and Role Models

6

One from each geo-political zone for “other”

Federal Government

Why? Government should as much as possible remove any tendency to dilute Stakeholder choice influence

0

9

Women Groups

12

National Council Of Women Society, NCWS, two per geo- political zone

Stakeholders

Okay

12

10

Market Women Association

6

One per geo-political zone.

Stakeholders

Okay

6

11

Women Organizations

6

International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA;  Nigerian Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ; and Women in Management and Business, WINBIZ, shall each nominate two Delegates;

Stakeholders

Okay

6

12

Political Parties in National Assembly

10

Parties that have representation in the National Assembly, including the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, All Progressives Congress, APC,  All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Accord Party, Labour Party, LP, two delegates each

Stakeholders

Too few…all parties that have ANY representation at all in ANY state legislature. In fact, why not all INEC-registered parties – all 25 of them?

25

13

Religious Leaders

12

Christian and Muslim Leaders

Stakeholders

Okay

12

14

Civil Society Organisations

24

Across board

Stakeholders

Not necessary – are these all other named associations NOT “Civil Society?”

0

15

Nigerians in Diaspora

8

Europe, America, Africa, Asia, and Middle East,  two delegates per location

Stakeholders

Not Enough – America should be broken into three (2 representing USA, 1 representing Canada and 1 representing South America), as well as Asia (2 representing Far Asia and 2 Representing Near Asia)

12

16

People Living with Disabilities

6

One per geo-political zone

Stakeholder

Okay

6

17

Media

8

Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, Nigeria Guild of Editors, Nigeria Union of Journalists and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria shall nominate 2 delegates each;

Stakeholders

Okay

8

18

Socio Political/ Cultural and Ethnic Nationality Groups

90

15 delegates each, per geo-political zone to reflect religious and ethnic diversities;

Stakeholders

Not enough at all….this number should be near to or equal to the quorum of Conference membership (assumed to be one-third)

107 – for one-quarter representation;

 

160 – for one-third representation

 

19

Professional Bodies

13

NBA, NSE, CIB, NMA, NIM, NIA, ICAN, ANAN, NIPR, AAPN, NIESV, Nigerian Environment Society and  Nigeria Economic Society

Stakeholders

Okay

13

20

National Academies

5

The Academy of Science, Academy of Engineering, Academy of Education, Academy of Letters and the Academy of Social Sciences shall each nominate 1 delegate;

Stakeholders

Okay..but no ASUU?

5

21

Former Judiciary Personnel

6

From the Judiciary not currently serving on the bench

President

Okay…but why does the President have to be the one to choose them?  NJC nko?

6

22

Former Political Office Holders

24

Former governors, Senators Forum, House of Reps Forum and the Association of Former Speakers shall each nominate one delegate per geo-political zone

Stakeholders

Okay….but how will they choose themselves?

24

23

FG

Delegates

20

At least six will be women

Federal Government

Why? A nebulous group

0

24

State Governments

Delegates

109

3 delegates each based on Senatorial District at least, while the FCT shall nominate 1 delegate, one of whom shall be a woman. The nomination shall be done by the state governors and where the state fails to nominate, the President shall nominate the required number from the state

State Governor and/or President

The number is okay, but choice by state governors defeats popular representation.  This is where LIMITED election or selection by the populace should be instituted

109

25

Former LG Chairmen

6

One from each from the six geo- political zones;

ALGON

Okay

6

26

Conference Leaders

3

Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Secretary, observing geo-political spread

President

Number okay, but President should just choose Chairman, and let the Conference choose the other two

3

 

TOTAL

492

 

 

 

426 or 479

 

The National Conference: How we got here

 

S/N

Date

Event

1

Independence Day broadcast October 1, 2013

President Goodluck Jonathan announces set up a Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue (PACND)

Composition: Senator Dr. Femi Okurounmu-Chairman; Dr. Akilu Sani Indabawa -Secretary, Senator Khairat Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe, Senator Timothy Adudu; Professor Olufunke Adeboye; Professor George A. Obiozor, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, NNOM (declined, later replaced by Prof. Anya Anya),  Dr. Abubakar Siddique Mohammed; Malam Bukhari Bello, MFR, mni; Mr. Tony I. Uranta,  Col. Tony Nyiam (Rtd) (later replaced by Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN)); Alhaji Dauda Birmah, OFR and Dr. Mrs. Mairo Ahmed Amshi, MFR.

2

October 7, 2013

Date of Inauguration of PACND

3

December 18, 2013

Submission of Report of PACND

 

http://www.osgf.gov.ng/content?id=135

STATEMENT BY ANYIM PIUS ANYIM, GCON, SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION, ON THE OCASSION OF THE RELEASE OF THE MODALITIES FOR THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE TO THE MEDIA ON 3OTH JANUARY, 2014; ABUJA

Gentlemen of the Press,

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this Press Conference. The purpose is to share with you, the highlights of the decisions of the Federal Government on the Report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue. I am indeed pleased and grateful that I am joined here today by the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, Senator Femi Okunronmu and the Secretary, Dr. Akilu Indabawa. I will make a brief statement and thereafter, all of us will be available to respond to your questions.

2.      You will recall that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan,GCFR, during his Independence Day National Broadcast, on 1st October, 2013 set up a 13-Member Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue under Senator Femi Okurounmu. The Committee which was inaugurated on 7th October 2013 was mandated to advise Government on the framework for a national dialogue by consulting widely with Nigerians. The Committee was given seven (7) terms of reference and was asked to submit its report in six (6) weeks.   The Committee met that target and in many respects, it exceeded all expectations.  At this juncture, let me once again, on behalf of the President, thank the Chairman and members of the Committee for their dedication, tenacity and courage in handling the assignment.

3.      The Federal Government is satisfied that the Committee has diligently discharged its task to the nation and posterity.  This is moreso, especially as one recalls the foundational principles of their assignment as espoused by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at the inauguration of the Committee. On that occasion, Mr. President emphasized that, “this is a National Project, a sincere and fundamental undertaking, aimed at realistically examining and genuinely resolving, long-standing impediments to our cohesion and harmonious development as a truly United Nation”.

4.      You will also recall that the President further stressed that, “sitting down to talk is one right step in calming down tensions and channeling our grievances, misgivings and suggestions into more positive use for the good of our country”. The President stated as well that in any case, Nigerians are already talking about their national challenges through the print and electronic media. He observed that, “the only gap is that while these talks are sometimes weighty, they often lack direction”. Therefore, one of the objectives for setting up the Committee was to lend weight and direction to the National Dialogue. You may also recall that Mr. President has also allayed “the fears of those who think the National Dialogue will call the integrity of Nigeria into question”, and added that, “this National Dialogue will strengthen our union and address issues that are often on the front burner, but too frequently ignored”.

5.      I wish to thank all Nigerians for their enthusiastic response to the opportunity to structure a national dialogue in the manner offered by the President. We are grateful for the massive support and encouragement that the broad strata and all sections of our nation gave to the Advisory Committee in all parts of the country they visited.  Also, let me in particular, extend our deep appreciation to members of the press. All of you contributed in no small way to sustain free and robust debate on every platform, to promote the ideals of the national dialogue.

6.      I am pleased to inform you that Government gave the most expeditious consideration to the Report of the Advisory Committee. In doing so, we sought explanations and guidance from the members of the Committee as at when necessary. We were also deeply encouraged by the calls by Nigerians from all works of life for us to proceed with the Report of the Committee with uttermost urgency, so that the nation can be through with the Dialogue well ahead of the approaching political season.

7.      I now have the privilege to announce that the Government, after long and mature deliberations on the Committees’ Report, accepts the following recommendations for immediate implementation:

(a)          The official name of the conversation/conference shall be “The National Conference”;

(b)                   The National Conference shall hold in the Federal                              Capital Territory, Abuja;

(c)          The National Conference shall tentatively last for 3 months and shall discuss any subject matter, except the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as a nation, therefore the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable;

(d)          A Conference Management Secretariat shall be established to manage, administer and run the affairs of the Conference;

(e)          Decisions at the National Conference shall be by consensus; but where it is not achievable; it shall be by 75% majority;

(f)           The National Conference shall advise the Government on the legal framework, legal procedures and options for integrating the decisions and outcomes of the national conference into the Constitution and laws of the country; and

(g)          The National Conference shall have a Chairperson and a Deputy Chairperson of unimpeachable integrity.

8.      Furthermore, the Federal Government has since approved the next steps necessary towards actualizing the National Conference as follows:

(i)      30th January,   2014     –        Formal release of the modalities for the National Conference;

(ii)      30th January, 2014       –        20th February, 2014                                  Nomination of Delegates;

(iii)     Inauguration of the Conference will follow soon after the delegate list is concluded.

 

9.      Pursuant to the foregoing, the modalities for the nomination of delegates to the Conference are as provided in the attached table.

 

10.    The list of nominees shall be submitted either online to www.osgf.gov.ng or in hard copy to the Office of the Permanent Secretary (Special Duties Office), Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Federal Secretariat Complex, Phase I, 3rd Floor, Central Business District, Abuja.  Formal inauguration of the Conference shall follow as soon as the nominations are received and collated.

 

11.    Thank you.

 

ANYIM PIUS ANYIM, GCON

Secretary to the Government of the Federation

National Confab Or Gathering Of Vultures? By Soyombo Ayomikun.


By Soyombo Ayomikun

A solemn gathering
Of minds burning for change
Both young and old
Seeking to light the path into tomorrow
That was my picture of the National Confab

Then I heard
That 492 souls will be gathered
Invited to come with empty pouches
As ripe gold awaits to be carted away
At the National Confab

Allegedly 9 million naira goes
To each man that gets the slot
As if it were some ‘ghost contracts’
In a land where diseases and poverty daily strikes
The weak ones labelled ‘masses’

A storm of pains
Whirled within my heart’s chambers
As I sensed that a gathering of ‘Judases’
Is about to be baptized
At the National Confab

I’m now seeing pictures
Of men gathering to drink our good roads
Of souls converging to eat our education
A buffet of deceit and lies
At the National Confab

We have journeyed
A long long way
Than to now be making a joke
Of what should be a glorious venture
A conference of Nigeria’s brightest minds

We don’t want a gathering of vultures
Devoid of passions or dreams
We don’t want an assembly
Of souls infested by greed
At our National Confab

The Confab we want is that of sacrificial hearts
With no gains of coins or gold attached
With no remuneration that will lure in ‘Judases’
A confab of the weak,the strong, & the mighty
With beautiful dream-filled hearts…for Nigeria!!!

Soyombo tweets from @alabaster85

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

US: Nigeria Won’t Break up in 2015.


Mr. James Entwistle

Worries about Nigeria breaking up may not be unfounded after all.  The  United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, during an  interactive session with some journalists in Lagos, said his country,  contrary to misconception, was not preparing  for Nigeria’s breakup.
He said: “I don’t see any sign of a breakup. There is no sign that  Nigeria will breakup. If this country is going to breakup in 2015, to  me, I don’t see any sign of it. You have challenges in this country, but  you are moving forward towards a bright future. There is no issue that  the country might break up.“Yes, your country had a devastating civil war just like my own  country. It almost tore us into two. I think both of our countries have  learnt how difficult it is to hold a country together and that has  certainly been a big factor in my country. The idea that Nigeria is  going to fall apart in the coming months is news to me; I am not sure  where that idea is coming from.”
Entwistle, who assumed duty in Nigeria last November, said Nigeria  parades array of talents and extraordinary creativity that will continue  to make the country an important place in Africa.
“In three months that I have been here, my overwhelming impression is  how smart and intelligent that Nigerians are. After three months, I am  very impressed by the creative spirit of Nigerians as they face  challenges. It is clear there are huge challenges ahead, but we are  committed to help Nigeria.“Every conversation I have on any subject, (I am just coming from a    roundtable discussion on the power sector here), I have really been  impressed by the energy and the drive and I get this sense that Nigerian  people are saying: ‘yes, we have challenges; things we have to deal  with but we can do this. This is our country. We will get this done.’  They appreciate help from outsiders and they just have this very strong  sense of pride that this is our country. We are going to get this  right,” he added.
He urged the federal government to strengthen its coordination efforts  with international organisations and neighbouring countries to stop Boko  Haram insurgency.“Whether it is fighting terror or the war on drugs or any of these  international problems that cut across borders, no one nation can do it  by itself. To really get at Boko Haram, your government needs to  continue working with Cameroun and Chad because these guys cross the  borders. These are guys for whom international borders are largely  meaningless. The only way to deal with these guys is to collaborate with  your neigbours and relevant international organisations.“I think in my conversation with your government and military, I think  there is a growing concern over finding an enemy who mixes with the  civilian population. So, that needs to be a focus,” he said.
He reiterated his country’s commitment to a review of African Growth  and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for inclusion of Nigeria’s value-added  products for export into American market against the current Generalised  System of Preference (GSP) provisions that allow  just oil as export  commodity from Nigeria into America.“We will continue to review AGOA. We will like to see other sectors of  your economy to begin to take advantage of AGOA,” he said.
On the recent law which bans same-sex unions in the country, Entwistle  said gay issue was a controversial one all over the world and that it  was up to Nigeria to define  marriage is.
He, however, expressed worry about certain clause in the law that places restrictions on freedom of assembly.
“As a friend of Nigeria, we are worried that the new law puts  restrictions on freedom of assembly or association. When you start  limiting freedom, it is worrisome,” he said.
Adeola Akinremi

Source: Radio Biafra.

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