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Nigeria to pay N12m to each delegate at the confab; Bakare says he won’t receive allowance.


 

Serving Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, has said that he will not partake of the N12m to be paid to each delegate to the three-month National Conference to be inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday (today).
Bakare, representing Ogun State at the conference, said he made the decision not to collect the money to be paid to delegates by the Federal Government in order to dispel any speculation that his motivation for accepting to take part in the conference was material.
Each of the 492 delegates to the National Conference would be paid N4m per month for the three month duration and this has been the subject of controversy with some Nigerians condemning the amount to be spent.
Announcing to his church members that he had accepted to be a delegate to the conference, Bakare told the congregation that he would be giving them weekly report as the conference progressed.
He said, “A friend of mine called me this (Sunday) morning that he heard on the radio that ‘Pastor Bakare had accepted to go, that his own fee is N12m’. Pastor Bakare will not take a kobo in the National Conference.
“I will not take a penny. It has nothing to do with others; that is by choice. We go with integrity of heart, it is not money. The God of heaven will prosper us.
“What I say here is what I will do there. I do not say others should do it, but I intend to do that so that our heart can remain pure. That does not mean the hearts of others are not pure but I don’t want anybody to think in any slight manner that the motive is this.
“This is the moment we have been waiting for, for this end I was born. Nigeria will be saved, Nigeria will be changed, and Nigeria will become great.”
Bakare explained that before he decided to be a delegate, he sought the approval of Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the man to whom the cleric was a running mate on the platform of Congress for Progressive Change in the 2011 presidential election.
He said, “Before I answered the call, before I said yes, I called General Buhari that ‘I don’t want our stands on this national conference issue to be different. The governor of Ogun State put me on his list, the Elders of South-West put me on their list. What do you say?’
“He said the All Progressives Congress might not be going, but you are free to go because you never can tell how God will help our nation. That does not mean I am in APC. People have been asking, ‘are you in APC,’ ‘are you in PDP?’ I have told you, I am on the side of God. In this season I don’t know until we fix Nigeria.”
by PUNCH
(From Biafra Galaxy)

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FG insists on no-go areas on National Conference.


There were indications last night that the Federal Government was serious about enforcing the no-go area clauses contained in the report of the Presidential Committee on National Conference, as many of the delegates began to arrive Abuja, yesterday, for the confab inauguration today.

Vanguard learnt from competent Presidency sources that the government was working hard to ensure that the delegates did not discuss any issue that could lead to the dismembering of Nigeria.

While unfolding the details of the National Conference in Abuja, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius

Anyim, listed the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as the areas that the delegates were not expected to deliberate on.
Vanguard learnt from authoritative sources that the government was bent on ensuring that the delegates kept to the issues canvassed by majority of Nigerians when the Femi Okurounmi-led Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue went round the country to collate their views on what should form the issues for discussion at the conference.

It was gathered that the Federal Government through the Conference Planning Secretariat had also developed a set of rules and regulations to guide the delegates’ deliberations and to ensure that they do not go outside their brief during plenary.

One source said that it was in recognition of the need to ensure that the delegates conform to what Nigerians had already pinpointed as the main areas of interest, that each delegate would be given a set of rules and regulations upon arrival in Abuja.

“While the government would not gag the delegates on what to discuss, it is also clear that the government will not allow anything that could lead to the break-up of Nigeria.

It is important to say that the committee planning the conference had outlined the major areas of interest to Nigerians based on the views expressed by them when the committee went round the six geo-political zones of the country.

“There is no doubt that the submission of the committee will help immensely in shaping the agenda of the meeting even though the secretariat will not in any way try to gag the delegates on what to say.

“It is also pertinent to say that anyone who wants to deviate from the views of the majority of Nigerians at the conference will have to test the superiority of their argument by winning by at least 75 per cent votes,” the source explained.

Vanguard also gathered that in a bid to ensure the success of the exercise, the secretariat might adopt a modified version of the Votes and Proceedings of the National Assembly for its work.

Although the delegates were expected to arrive for accreditation today, Vanguard observed that no fewer than 20 delegates had already been screened by hordes of security agents manning the expansive compound of the National Judicial Institute, NJI, the venue of the talks.

Each of the screened delegates was issued with tags with machine-readable security features and biometrics of the delegates.

Source: Radio Biafra.

By SONI DANIEL, Regional Editor, North

President Jonathan hand pick National conference list of delegates sparks anger.


 

Even before it begins, the National Conference is generating acrimony – the very ailment it is expected to tackle.

The talk shop to which 492 delegates have been invited is to be inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan next Monday. It will be chaired by a retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Lagbo Kutigi.

But the Ogoni in Rivers State, the Itsekiri of Delta State and Pensioners, among others, rejected the list yesterday. They are angry that they have been “sidelined”.

The coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOS) in the Northeast has also rejected the delegates’ list.

Besides, a top official of the All Progressives Congress (APC) said the opposition party might not be keen on filling the two slots allotted it at the conference.

But a former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said the conference should be given the benefit of the doubt to succeed.

He urged President Jonathan not to reduce its outcome and concessions to “mere advisory significances”.

The APC chief, who is a member of the Interim National Executive Committee (NEC), doubted the Federal Government’s sincerity.

He said: “If they are still waiting for the list of delegates from the APC, they may have to wait till eternity. If they are waiting for our list before they start it, then, the conference will not hold. Our opinion and disposition are known. They need to understand where we stand.”

Asked to comment on the participation in the conference of some APC chieftains nominated by state governments and other bodies, he said they are not representing the interest of the opposition party.

“There is no evidence that the conference will solve Nigeria’s problems. As at today, we have no delegates’ list. The people expecting us to send a list are not blind and they are not deaf. Our position is clear,” the official said.

The Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) at the weekend wrote the Presidency through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, protesting it exclusion.

The union said: “We are strongly protesting the exclusion of our Union from the National conference, which, if not quickly redressed, would lead to mass protest by pensioners all over Nigeria.

“We humbly call on Your Excellency, to use your good offices to rectify this ugly situation as soon as possible. This issue has been referred to the Nigeria Labour Congress for quick intervention as well.”

In the letter dated March 7, titled: “National Conference Nomination: Letter of Protest”, the NUP National President, Dr. Abel Afolayan, said the six slots that were allotted to retired civil servants were all for the Council of Retired Permanent Secretaries (CORFEPS).

According to the the letter, the NUP should have been consulted as the major stakeholders representing the interest of the entire civil service retirees/ pensioners.

Afolayan added: “Ironically, other related retirees’ associations, such as the military, the police, State Security Service, were all given slots to represent the interests of their members with the exception of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners.

“Regrettably, the presence of the National President of the union at the office of the SGF on the 5th of March, 2014 to protest this oversight was rebuffed by the Permanent Secretary (Special Duties) of the office of the SGF.

“I am writing on behalf of over 1 million pensioners in Nigeria who are members of our union.

We consider it necessary to direct our complaint to the office of the SGF because it is the office charged with the responsibility of compiling the list of the delegates to the National Conference.

“It is on this note that we wish to draw your attention to the Federal Government’s announcement in the media on the release of the list of delegates to the National Conference, which indicated that retired civil servants were given six slots to the National Conference.

“As the only union registered and approved by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity for Nigerian civil pensioners/retirees, it was expected that our union, rather than the association of the retired Federal Permanent Secretaries should nominate delegates to the conference. But to our greatest dismay, we discovered that the union was sidelined.

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has written to President Jonathan to protest the exclusion of Ogoni from the national conference.

MOSOP, through its President, Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, in the letter to the President accused the Federal Government of marginalising Ogoni people.

It reiterated that the national conference was set up to address lingering imbalances, injustice and instability occasioned by marginalisation and violation of people’s rights, among other issues.

The umbrella organisation of Ogoni people said: “We have reviewed the published list of delegates (to the national conference) and are shocked that while some ethnic groups in the country are represented by over 40 delegates in some instances, others have no representation whatsoever.

“For us (Ogoni) specifically, in spite of the huge sacrifices we have made in our pioneering struggle for justice in the Niger Delta and democracy in the country as a whole, we are appalled that even out of the list of 15 delegates from the Southsouth, while some ethnic groups in the zone were represented by upwards of five delegates, not even one of our people was considered for inclusion.

“We had thought that the Federal Government’s nominations would help address cases of such obvious omissions, but surprisingly, we found that it suffered the same fate.

“Given the internationally-acknowledged contributions and huge sacrifices of the Ogoni people, under the leadership of MOSOP, to the struggle for democracy, justice, human rights, including indigenous people’s and minority rights, environmental justice and true federalism, we see the exclusion of Ogoni people as another major step in the continuing government policy to malign and oppress the Ogoni people and diminish their huge contributions to nation building.

“This our protest is predicated on our firm belief that any dialogue process to address the injustice of marginalisation cannot succeed, if erected on the shallow foundation of exclusion and that the best way of perpetrating injustice is to exclude those most afflicted by it from discussions aimed at addressing it.

“Our people and others like us have been the barometer by which injustice in Nigeria has over the years been measured and that explains why we have been in the forefront with others to advocate national discourse to address the national question. Our exclusion not only sends a dangerous, even if inadvertent message, but asks important questions about the credibility of the process.”

It declared that Ogoni people and other indigenous/minority communities would not consider themselves bound by whatever decisions that would be reached at the national conference, should the organisation’s protest not be considered.

The Volunteers for Protection of Itsekiri Rights accused Jonathan of “rigging” the list of delegates to achieve a predetermined agenda in favour of his Ijaw kinsmen.

VPIR, in a statement by Robinson Ariyo, Leleji Augustine and Okpeyeghan Toju, National Coordinator, Secretary and Public Relations Officer, said the exclusion of the Itsekiri ethnic group from the original list of delegates was suspicious.

It also faulted the explanation of “anomaly” proffered by the state government for the exclusion of Chief Isaac Jemide, the Itsekiri delegate, saying, “We suggest that it is because in this instance, the selection criteria for the delegates were rigged from inception to favour one ethnic group above every other ethnic group in Nigeria.”

It said the assertion was buttressed by The Presidency’s presentation of an delegate in each of the categories, stressing that other ethnic groups must also vet the list properly to ensure that the agenda of a group is not imposed on Nigerians.

“With the conspiracy to exclude the Itsekiris from participating in this conference and the fact that over 20 delegates of Ijaw ethnic extraction are on board, Nigerians need to revisit the set of criteria finally chosen by the Presidency to make this possible,” the statement added.

The Itsekiri group said the hoopla generated by the exclusion of their kinsmen and other ethnic groups from the list of delegates justified initial calls that selection of delegates be done along the lines of ethnic nationalities as suggested by constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze.

They claimed that the decision not to make selection on ethnic line was to “guarantee that Ijaw have the well over 20 slots which they now have. While the Itsekiris have none, Isokos and Urhobos have only about three jointly.

“Now that the Presidency has gone ahead to execute its strategy of lopsided representation of delegates to suit the President’s ethnic group, we call on all other ethnic groups in Nigeria to peruse the list of delegates against the alleged criteria and determine how much each has been cheated in this scheme before we proceed any further with the conference.

Secretary of the Coalition of the Northeast Civil Societies, Alhaji Baba Shehu told reporters in Damaturu yesterday that the conference is a jamboree of fraudulent and selfish government agents without the full representation of the people at the local level.

Alhaji Shehu noted that 25 CSOs in the region met and nominated four delegates but the list was thrown into the dust bin by the Federal Government.

“We the Civil Society Organisations in the Northeast receive the news of the delegates of the CSOs in our region with a rude shock.

“The list as released by the Federal Government is completely strange from the criteria and procedure of selection of the delegates as earlier directed.

“Apart from our complete ignorance of the names of delegates on the list, we are also noticed that the region has been short-changed by two delegates. Instead of the four names that we forwarded after our meeting on the 12/02/2014, none of the names came out only for us to see just two strange names on the list.

“We make bold to say that the Northeast more than any other region in this country at the moment needs a more true representation at this conference to discussion its problems. It is rather unfortunate that some people would sit in Abuja and make a decision on such a sensitive matter of this nature.”

Olanipekun said no constitution disallows President Jonathan from organising a National Conference, noting that “sovereignty resides in and with the people.”

The former chair of the University of Ibadan Governing council explained that the NBA had long been in the struggle for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) since the 1980s under the leadership of Chief Alao Aka-Bashorun.

“Whether it is National Conference or Sovereign National Conference, Nigerians must start from somewhere. We have to cross-fertilise ideas on how best to run the country, whether the Presidential system should continue or not. We have to go there and listen to discussion”.

He said: “Are we saying the maiming and killing of innocent Nigerians presently in some parts of the country should not be discussed? Are we saying these human lives have no meaning to us?, he queried”.

“It is the conference that would determine the type of constitution and system of government that would be operated in Nigeria. It is the conference that will give us a groundrum and not to advise Mr President”, Olanipekun said.

Source: Radio Biafra.

National Conference: Afenifere rejects Okurounmu report.


 

Yoruba Image

The Yoruba Socio-political group, Afenifere, has rejected the report on the proposed National Conference, recently submitted by the Presidential Advisory Committee

on the conference to the Federal Government.

Rising from an elders’ meeting on Thursday in Akure, Afenifere concluded that the report did not represent the submissions of the interest groups received by the committee during the sittings across the different geopolitical zones.

Reading Afenifere’s communiqué shortly after the meeting, the group’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the meeting which was held to review the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the National Conference, “observed that the report did not reckon with the submissions of the various ethnic nationality groups in Nigeria as presented to them during their sittings across the country.

“Arising from the above, most of the recommendations have fallen short of the aspirations and expectations of the various nationalities in Nigeria.

“In specific terms: (1) whereas the position canvassed in majority of the zones is that being a conference of nations, the approximations of the ethnic nationalities should be equal representation of the six geopolitical zones, the PAC has recommended that delegates be elected on the basis of federal constituencies which are not representative of the nationalities in Nigeria.

“Whereas most presentations insisted on the national conference producing a brand new constitution that would be autochthonous, the PAC only talked about integrating the outcome of the conference into the existing Constitution.

“In place of the clear and unambiguous demand of the nationalities that the Constitution that would be produced be subjected to a referendum of the people of Nigeria, the PAC made a nebulous recommendation of the conference determining what happens to its decision. Afenifere clearly rejects this.”

Odumakin further said Afenifere was of the firm view that the Presidential Advisory Committee had not advised Mr. President properly on the fundamentals of the national conference and therefore its report should not be treated as mandatory by the President.

He said, “The President is advised to take the benefits of the raw submissions of the ethnic nationality organisations and other stakeholders in convoking this national conference.

“Lastly we remain unflinching in our commitment to the national conference project as the only panacea for steering Nigeria away from the edge of the precipice. Therefore, it must be done very well, and rightly, so that the President does not play into the hands of those who have said the conference is going to be a mere talk shop.”

Source: Radio Biafra.

PRESS RELEASE : Obasanjo’s Letter, Coup Baiting: Afenifere Warns Political Class!.


By Yinka Odumakin

Afenifere is compelled to issue a timely warning to the Nigerian political class and their military fronts on the dangers of resorting to the military option as the final act in the orchestrated hysteria being created in the polity as the law of unintended consequences does not unfold until after the event.

We are issuing this warning, as we can no longer ignore the rumor that has been very thick in the air that some forces that want to abort the proposed National Conference are scheming to exploit the challenges of our democracy to cause an unconstitutional change in the polity.

All citizens of our country with a sense of history would have been able to draw a parallel between General Obasanjo’s December2 letter to President Goodluck Jonathan and a document circulated in January,1976 entitled “FACTS  TO KNOW ABOUT MURTALA-A WARNING TO THE NATION”.

Gen.Murtala Muhammed was assassinated a month afterwards. Interestingly, General Obasanjo was prominent among those copied the document.

Also,in the days preceding the coup against the Alhaji Shehu Shagari government in 1983,Gen.Obasanjo was very loud in criticizing the government.Thirty years after that act of treason,Mr Max Suollin in SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE has righty captured what was happening as “coup baiting” with generous quotation of IBB’s confessions that those who staged the 1983 coup actually asked Obasanjo to come and lead the government,a request he turned down while encouraging the putsch.

”    Question:  “It was also said that those of you who ousted Shagari actually wanted to bring back General Obasanjo as Head of State in 1984. Is this true?”

Babangida: “It is true. But to be very fair to General Obasanjo, he rejected the offer. He said no. He said it would destroy his integrity, that he handed over to Shagari and that it is not right for him to get involved. But he (Obasanjo) said he was not stopping us from going ahead with the plot”.”(Soldiers Of Fortune,Max Siollun,Pg 14) 

It was little wonder that while Gen Obasanjo issued another in the series of his infamous letters against Babaginda Military Junta in 1992,the “evil genius” quickly ran from Abuja to Otta and followed up with reshuffles in the military high commands. The same IBB is the first person Obasanjo copied his letter.

This is why we in Afenifere are not impressed with the sinister letter from the ever manipulative and evil agenda setting General who has never shown any pure motive since he started his interventions in our national affairs.

It is therefore the height of foolhardiness and or a lack of any sense of history for members of the political class to be enabling these Generals who have not been known to act in the collective interest in their infamous careers.

Have our politicians forgotten so soon what the country went through for six years when Abacha was enabled to overthrow the Shonekan Interim Government in 1993?

We do not argue that Nigeria does not have serious challenges at the moment but we refuse to accept that the solutions to our problems would come from any group of military adventures.It is a jaded option that we have been offered over the years and it has always created more problems than the ones it promises to solve.

On a more fundamental note,there is a delicate balance in the country at the moment which has made the proposed National Conference the most veritable platform to address the crises facing Nigeria and for which the nationalities are rearing to go.

To attempt to stop that process by staging a coup would amount to rushing Nigeria to a major catastrophe as any group of military adventurers may discover there is no space for them to preside over.

It is therefore in the best interest of all that all those who are possibly plotting to cause crisis in the country perish the thought and allow the National Conference to proceed seamlessly so that the people of Nigeria can proffer their own solutions to our challenges so we can emerge a united and prosperous entity from the table of brotherhood.

This is our patriotic approach to nation building, which we commend to all reasonable Nigerians.

Yinka Odumakin.

National Publicity Secretary,

Afenifere.

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Is It Time To Sack The Nigerian National Assembly? By Nwike (S) Ojukwu.


By Nwike (S) Ojukwu

The call for a Nigerian National Conference has generated a lot of enthusiasm across the nation. The local media is inundated with Nigerians expressing their concerns over the proposed conference. From the pulse of our people, it would be safe to conclude that the conference has considerable support. However, as with every issue, a section of the polity is strident in its opposition to the conference. There are also the ambivalent, those in the middle of the argument, who are neither in support nor in opposition to the conference. They are unimpressed with the present situation, but they are apathetic to social change. Each side makes compelling argument to bolster its position. At the end, one thing that we can agree on is that there is need for Nigerians to congregate and agree on an arrangement that reflects their peculiar history and the future they envision for themselves.

It is common knowledge that the British Colonial Office did not intend to establish a nation when it engaged the former parts of Western Sudan and Lower Niger. This is demonstrated by its divergent administrative policies for the former protectorates. The Colonial Office encouraged the native administration in the North, but placed itself in the middle of native authority’s engagement with the outside world. The same system was not replicated elsewhere in the country. In fact, when the “warrant chiefs” were given extensive powers in the East to collect taxes and other levies, the consequence was the “Aba Women’s Riot” of 1929. It was also the colonial government’s policy to block the infiltration of Christianity in the North. Islam had provided the stability they needed to pillage the indigenous people’s resources. However, the obstinate South needed conversion to Christianity. Thus, the Colonial Office used Christianity as an instrument of conquest of the more unpredictable South. In addition to that, Nigeria was strategically structured to benefit the North to the detriment of the other component units. Such a lopsided arrangement needed rectification.

The call for a National Conference raises important questions that will lead to its either success or failure. For instance, what should be the role of the National Assembly about the conference? Should it pass a law convening the Conference?  Should the National Assembly exercise their powers to censor the recommendations of the conference? What happens if the National Assembly fails to pass a law convening the conference? Again, what happens should the National Assembly throw out the recommendations of the conference? All these are possibilities that could potentially change the dynamics of Nigeria. The sincerity or otherwise of the government in convening the conference pales in light of the obvious possibilities. The ultimate question then is whether Nigerians could sack their National Assembly.

The National Assembly has been variously accused of insensitivity and self-centeredness in the payment of jumbo salaries to its members amongst other things. Yet we sit on our hands and do nothing because we lack the courage to demand accountability from our elected representatives. Let us be realistic, the National Assembly is composed of men and women who would not sit idly by and watch their jobs and livelihood threatened.  Convening a National Conference renders that body irrelevant and redundant.  That is why most of the members of that body are suspicious of the conference and have consistently argued against its convocation. If the recommendations of the conference should be subjected to the censorship of the National Assembly, chances are that it would be scuttled. The majority of the representatives in the Assembly are products of the lopsided system that gives the North the numerical advantage. With the Northern majority and the support of the political elites from the South who would be rendered jobless by the conference, its recommendations are sure to be stifled. It is common sense.

Besides that, the 1999 Constitution remains our law. The suggestion that the National Assembly should be sidestepped because “the people” have the powers to call the shots is bereft of a legal foundation. Inasmuch as sovereignty resides with “the people”, we have transferred most of our powers to our representatives, whether elected or selected through our Constitution. We play on emotions when we insist that because we placed them in the National Assembly, we could reassert our powers and organize a conference outside their purview. That would be courting constitutional crises and I do not think that Nigerians are ready for such engagements.

One argument against the conference that has been of concern to some Nigerians is the fear that it could lead to a break-up of the country, assuming that Nigeria is currently united. Such an argument is spurious and a superficial alibi for shirking our responsibility to confront the fierce urgency of making tough choices.  We cannot afford to defer such an important matter to our children. It could only get worse. The need to deal with the scourge of corruption, unemployment, high morbidity, insecurity, and underdevelopment cannot wait anymore. The rest of the world is not waiting for us to organize and join the global community, and our kids deserve to be prepared to compete in that marketplace just like every other kid in the world. I do not understand why a Nigerian should be scared to talk to another Nigerian. Bishop Peter Adebiyi’s matter-of-fact position on the so-called break-up of the country generated tremendous dissension on my blog. (See http://nationalconfererncengr.wordpress.com) Someone even questioned his clerical credentials for exercising his constitutional right to free speech.

It is against this background that Nigerians should brace up to face the reality of a confrontation with their elected representatives if they truly demand the conference. Apart from recourse to the National Assembly, another viable way out of the various possibilities that could unfold is a “Nigerian Spring.” Historically, those who wield power do not give it up easily. What Franz Fanon said over fifty years ago is still relevant today, “violence is man re-creating himself.” Building a nation is not a gift; it comes with a sacrifice both in blood and in sweat. We have kicked the can down the road for too long, hoping that somehow our fragile republic would reinvent itself. Unfortunately, the chicken is coming home to roost sooner than we expected.

Would Nigerians be willing to commit to rebuilding their nation? If the answer is in the affirmative, Nigerians must also be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. While I am not an advocate of violent revolution, certain things are inexorable. The Christian Bible said that from the time of John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violence takes it by force. If we are genuinely disposed to rebuilding our nation, all options must be on the table, including but not limited to violent confrontation. This is a historical truth. Even if this conference ultimately fails, we have started a fire that would be difficult to extinguish. My suggestion is that we must not allow this occasion to slip through our fingers. Let us make hay while the sun shines because it is cost-effective. President John F. Kennedy’s famous line sounds true when he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” I should add that the flesh of those who stand in the way of peaceful revolution would feed the inferno of violent revolution.

Nwike (S) Ojukwu
Doctor of Laws (Cand), The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.
http://nationalconfererncengr.wordpress.com

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

President Jonathan’s Confusion About National Dialogue By Leonard Karshima Shilgba.


By Leonard Karshima Shilgba

President Jonathan announced on October 1, 2013 his intention to convoke a national conference at which there would be no issues excluded from discussion. He then inaugurated on October 7, 2013 a committee he charged to come up with a framework for the conference.

To those that assumed they understood the president, this committee should determine among other things the composition of delegates to the conference, the timeline for the conference, whether the outcome of the conference should be submitted to a national referendum (and how such referendum should be conducted, and how long the referendum should last) or referred to the National Assembly and state houses of assembly. In approaching its assignment, the committee is expected by Nigerians to collate views or submissions from Nigerians and attempt to meld them into a certain firm position that should be submitted to the National Assembly for passage into an act that should give some legal backing to the national conference.

On Tuesday, October 15, 2013, only 8 days after the inauguration of the conference committee, and less than 5 weeks to the conclusion of the assignment of that committee, President Jonathan was reported to have said that he “would forward the outcome of the national conference to the National Assembly so that it would form an integral part of the on-going Constitution amendment.” It is amazing! Has the president not pre-empted the committee already by his reported comments? Does he truly understand what he has undertaken to do? A national conference of the magnitude and importance the president should be contemplating at this point in the history of Nigeria should not be one whose outcome is to “form an integral part of the on-going Constitution amendment.”

President Jonathan’s National Conference committee’s main task is to provide the president with a conference bill to be passed into law by the National Assembly in order to give legal strength to the outcome of the conference. And in working out such a bill, the committee should do a careful reading of sections 8 and 9 of the 1999 constitution in order to frame a bill that gives some order for the expected national referendum.

  1. The first consideration is to alter section 8 in order to create a pathway for the outcome of a National Conference toward a brand new people’s constitution via a national referendum. Section 9 (3) states that:

An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of altering the provisions of this section, section 8 or Chapter IV of this Constitution shall not be passed by either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is approved by the votes of not less than four-fifths majority of all the members of each House, and also approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the States.

  1. Section 8 (1) (b), (c) (3) (b), (c) makes references to approvals by at least two-thirds majority of the people in reference in a referendum with respect to creation of new states and creation of new local government areas. Relevant amendments should be proposed by the National Conference committee in order to accommodate the outcome of a national conference.
  2. PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO SECTION 8:

An insertion of subsection 7 should read as follows:

 

  1. In the event of a National Conference to determine any national questions called by either the President of the Federation via a published gazette or the National Assembly by a resolution passed by a simple majority of members of each House, the conference shall last for not more than twelve months. A national referendum shall hold not later than one year after completion of conference proceedings, and the referendum shall be conducted by the National Electoral body over a period of not more than one week, during which the result shall be declared.
  2. The proposal of the conference shall not become law except approved in a national referendum by at least two-thirds majority of all Nigerians of voting age that shall participate in the referendum, which shall be observed by the United Nations.
  3.  The approved conference proposal shall become law and supersede all sections of the existing constitution that stand in conflict with any of its provisions.

 

President Jonathan should not presume to hold a national conference unless he has first taken both legislative and legal steps to ensure that the conference pregnancy is not aborted or the foetus is not inchoate. With regard to the proposed amendments above only 85 senators and 288 members of the House of Representatives are required to start-off the process. We must not wait for the outcome of the conference before providing the legal scaffold to attain a more perfect union.And considering that there are less than 18 months to the end of the present federal administration and much less that time to the conduct of the next general elections, the time remaining should be used to effect the relevant amendments I have proposed above while the national conference should commence after May, 2015. If this is done, candidates for the next general legislative and executive elections should be made to make their positions on the contemplated conference well known to their electorate. Meanwhile, ethnic nationalities and civil society groups should begin holding pre-conference discourses across the country in order to filter through their positions and expectations in a new Nigerian federation. In the end, a national conference should achieve seven things. Its outcome should:

 

  1. Remove wastes from governance;
  2. Remove weakness from the constituent parts of the country and return economic competition;
  3. Recover wealth for the host communities that host productive industries with only environmental devastation as the reward;
  4. Restore fiscal federalism and devolution of relevant powers to the regions;
  5. Re-define Nigerian citizenship by birth in a way that is more inclusive;
  6. Register a bill of rights for citizens; and
  7. Restore national and local security through local or regional policing and justice.

I would not want a national conference that resembles the Amnesty that was granted the militants of the Niger Delta by President Yar’Adua and facilitated by President Jonathan, which has not improved on the quality of life of the people of the region. Rather, a few rogues have been made super rich enough to afford private jets while their environment remains devastated and polluted. The amnesty was simply a bribe to the “militants” to stop fighting for their people; and they fell for it for their nauseating greed for pecuniary benefits. These were not real freedom fighters, for their people are not yet free even though they have got free money to buy private jets in the midst of their people’s pitiable living conditions and squalor. What a corrupt generation! I am not expecting a national conference that shall fail at the start. If President Jonathan and the national assembly have not been able to complete work on the Petroleum Industry Bill for passage into an Act of the National Assembly, how can they pass the necessary National Conference Act? Maybe President Jonathan will surprise us all and do the right thing this time.

Email: Shilgba@yahoo.com

TEL: 08055024356

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

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