Tuesday, 25 March 2014

National Conference Starts On A Shaky Note..Disagreement All Over

The first major deadlock set in at the National Conference, yesterday, when delegates were split over the clause stipulating that all decisions to be reached must be done through consensus or a vote of 75 per cent majority.
Tension began to rise when the chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, attempted to overrule a delegate, Chief Mike Ozekhome, who had called for the amendment of the provision to make it possible for any decision to be arrived at through two thirds majority, which he said was the same position with the constitution and global best practices.
Ozekhome had argued that it would be against the interest of natural justice and the nation for major decisions to be decided by only a few persons at the confab, since the meaning of 75 per cent was such that even if the delegates had up to 74.99 per cent, they could not change anything while a minority of 25 per cent of the members could easily win over anything they decide on under the rule of consensus.
The activist lawyer pointed out that if the rule was allowed to stand, it would be impossible for delegates representing local interests to influence the outcome of any issue at the end of the confab, thereby defeating the purpose for which they were nominated by their sponsors.
The Edo‑born lawyer argued: “My Lord, I want to point out for your attention and that of the delegates that a lot of very controversial and emotive issues will come up at the conference since many of the delegates here represent local and community interests.
“Under the provision for 75 per cent for any dissenting voice to get anything done here, it would be very difficult for anything to be achieved. We should, therefore, go back to the normal practice of two-thirds majority when it comes to voting on any matter.
“What this means is that for any decision to be taken no fewer than 369 of the 492 delegates must concur before such can be done. This is behemoth and extremely difficult given our situation in this country.”
We can’t change voting rule —Kutigi
Ozekhome had hardly landed when Kutigi reminded him that the issue of consensus or 75 per cent voting by the dissenting party had already been decided by Presidency and that the matter had been closed.
He said: “We cannot change the rule of voting which had already been decided by the President, who set the tone for this conference; the issue has been closed.”
Delegates rise against Kutigi
But many delegates, among them, Oodua Peoples Congress’ Chief Ganiyu Adams, Professor Auwalu Yadudu, Dr. Ahmadu Alli and elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo rose against Kutigi, saying the rule should be amended to comply with the Nigerian Constitution, which stipulates two-thirds majority for voting on any serious matter before it becomes law.
Adebanjo said: “Where in the world have you heard of 75 per cent voting majority in any matter?
“We should not isolate Nigeria when it comes to issues of very serious international and national importance like this. We should go with the world and not play into the hands of those who do not want Nigeria to work.
“Mr. Chairman, I plead with you to go back to Mr. President and plead with him that the 75 per cent or three quarters majority should be changed to two thirds majority as is the case all over the world. We should not be given any condition that is unattainable.”
75% strange, at variance with constitution—Yadudu
Adding his voice to the debate, Auwalu Yadudu, a professor of law, noted that the insertion of the clause for 75 percent voting majority was quite strange and at variance with the Nigerian constitution, which stipulates two thirds majority.
Yadudu said: “This is the first time we are hearing of 75 per cent voting majority. If the provision of the constitution is ignored, we can as well ignore the directive by the President that the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria should not be discussed at the conference.
Jimeta,  Adamu back 75% voting rule
However, former Ambassador of Nigeria to the United States, Hassan Adamu and the former Inspector General of Police, Muhammadu Gambo Jimeta, both from Adamawa State, countered the protagonists of two thirds voting majority, saying Jonathan was right in insisting on consensus or 75 per cent voting majority.
Despite the attempt by Kutigi to rule that the matter had been closed, more dissenting voices rented the air and he had to defer discussion on the issue as members went on break at 2pm.
The confab tactically deferred further discussion on the matter when it resumed at 4pm and rather deliberated on other items listed on the order papers for adoption.
Delegates to select chairmen, deputies for c’ttees
The delegates also disagreed with the position that chairman and deputies of the committees should be appointed by the principal officers and instead made it the duty of members of the different committees to elect their leaders.
Split over hours of  sessions
The delegates also had a tough time reaching a consensus on hours of the sessions. While some delegates agreed with the status quo in the rules book of the conference which provide for the sessions to run from 10 a.m to 6 p.m with two hours in between for lunch, many others argued that the time was too much.
The idea followed a motion by former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, who suggested that the closing time should be fixed for 4 p.m and the lunch time also reduced to one hour.
According to him, the adjustment in time would enable the media  ensure a better coverage of the conference by filing their stories on time. Besides, he said the idea will also enable delegates to have fruitful deliberations.
Former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, supported Osoba. In his contribution, he said flexibility should be allowed to dominate the proceedings of the conference.
“After lunch it is bye, bye. We shouldn’t be rigid,” he said.
Chinedu Obasi, representing students association from South East, also insisted on reducing the break time.
But former senate president in the aborted Third Republic, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, from Benue State, disagreed with Osoba and Ezeife, saying the time provided in the Rules Book should be left as it is.
Senator Adolphus Wabara, another former Senate president and delegate from Abia State, also argued that the time provided was enough, urging a clear demarcation between the presiding officers and other principal officers.
“If quorum is formed, we should demarcate between the presiding and the principal offers. The time provided is enough,” he said.

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