National Conference Ends in Peace

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Kutigi

Members of the national conference eventually bury mutual suspicions to adopt proposals for constitutional amendments for the country just as the conference winds down proceedings on Thursday, August 14

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Aug. 25, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

IT took off on a stormy note. Its debates, voting and other proceedings were laced with drama, screams and tantrums that sometimes made people wonder if it was ever going to achieve the main objectives for which it was set up. But on Thursday, August 14, when the final curtains were drawn on the national conference which began on March 17, it was without any rancour.

The conference came to a close after the delegates reached an agreement on the controversial proposed draft of a new constitution. The draft which contained proposals for the constitutional amendments were adopted by a voice vote in which majority of the delegates voted in favour of making certain changes in the 1999 constitution.

What, perhaps, helped the easy passage of the proposals was the decision to tweak the title of conference report from ‘draft constitution’ to ‘resolutions of the conference as draft amendments to 1999 constitution.’ This was eventually backed by the members of the Northern Delegates Forum, NDF, who had earlier threatened to boycott the close of the conference over the proposals.

Registering their opposition, the northern delegates had initially asked Idris Kutigi, chairman of the conference, to withdraw the draft of the proposed constitution and the conference report which was distributed to members on Monday, August 11 or they would not be participating.

Akinjide
Akinjide

In a petition to Kutigi, titled: ‘New constitution, referendum and adoption of conference report: Issues of serious concern’ the NDF demanded the withdrawal of the document, adding that its content should not even be debated at the plenary. The petition was signed by Ibrahim Coomasie and General Jeremiah Useni, chairman and co-chairman of the group, respectively.

The petition said in part: “We call upon the leadership of the Conference to discountenance and withdraw the Draft Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2014 and the accompanying Bills, which have been circulated.

“We urge the Conference leadership to table the Draft Conference Report which contains only the resolutions openly and officially sanctioned and adopted by delegates for validation and adoption as provided for under the National Conference Procedure Rules, 2014 and as envisaged in the Work Plan adopted.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we shall not be a party to the adoption of the report or any part thereof by voice vote. We urge the leadership of the Conference to be strictly guided by the Conference Procedure Rules, 2014.”

The northern delegates also threatened that any recommendation in the conference report and draft of a new constitution would be null and void since none of them was privy to the meetings that led to the adoption of such recommendations.

“Moreover and to the best of our knowledge, we are unaware that the Conference has, whether at plenary or committee stages of its work, taken a decision to draw up a draft constitution, authorised or tasked any of its Committees, delegates or the Conference Secretariat to do so.”

But prior to the plenary on Thursday, Kutigi held a closed door meeting with leaders of various geo-political zones represented at the conference. The meeting proved to be fruitful as none of the northern delegates opposed the proposed amendments.

Done with the amendments, the delegates also adopted the conference report.  Richard Akinjide, a former minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation, moved the motion for the adoption of the conference report and it was seconded by Yadomah Mandara.

President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to formally bring the conference to a close on Thursday, August 21.

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