DEEP divisions on national issues among delegates at the ongoing National Conference on Thursday forced the chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, to adjourn plenary abruptly.
The delegates disagreed, among others, over contentious national issues, including percentage of derivation to be paid to the oil producing states and the zones to benefit from the proposed intervention fund.
Signs emerged that the day’s proceedings would be turbulent when the Deputy Chairman of the conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, announced in the morning that discussions on derivation would resume in one hour in order to give zonal leaders enough time to put their report together.
When plenary eventually resumed, he announced that the report of the 18- man committee, which was later enlarged to 35 members, was still being awaited.
The leaders had in their report presented by a member of the consensus group, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, on Wednesday said that the group had agreed that the oil producing states be given not less than 18 per cent derivation.
Gambari said that they had agreed that a new fund to be established, which they called Fund for Stabilisation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, which he put at five per cent of the Federal Allocation, would be out for principally the North-East, North-West and the North-Central.
But a majority of the delegates, including members of the Gambari group, said the report was not correct and therefore rejected it.
While waiting for the group to come up with a fresh agreement on Thursday, Akinyemi
said that the conference would go on with the suggested amendments to the recommendations of the Committee on Devolution of Power, while waiting for the report of the Consensus Group.
Raising a point of order, a delegate from Borno State, Dr. Haruna Yerima, said that delegates would “vote physically on all amendments and recommendations of the Committee on Devolution of Power.”
He said it would be wrong for the leadership of the conference to say that they would rely on voice vote.
When the plenary was becoming rowdy because of Yerima’s submission, another delegate from the South-South, Mr. Musa Adede, reminded the conference that delegates were already deviating from the way they started.
Besides, he urged the leadership of the conference not to be intimidated
“Mr. Chairman, don’t be intimidated. You must preside and follow due process,” he added.
At this point, Kutigi said that the conference would proceed, but added that the issue of derivation would not be discussed until the elders and members of the Consensus Group had been through with their recommendations.
Kutigi said, “We shall now proceed as expected, but we would not speak on derivation”.
During the intervening period, the delegates accepted the committee’s recommendation that public holiday be moved from the exclusive list to the concurrent list.
They also agreed that minimum wage should remain in the Exclusive List and that police be moved to Concurrent List because of the approval for the establishment of state police, which the conference had agreed on.
The delegates also agreed that insurance should remain in the Exclusive List.
At this stage, Akinyemi called on a delegate, who is also a member of the Consensus Group, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, to submit the group’s recommendations on the contentious issues.
Before he could rise to speak, a former Inspector-General of Police, who is also the Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr. Ibrahim Coomassie, said the expected report did not have his support and those he represented.
Coomassie said, “I’m involved in the meetings and as the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, I can tell you that we have not reached any agreement yet.
“We have met up to this morning, there was no agreement. Any report submitted to you has no support from the northern delegates.”
His submission threw the plenary into confusion as delegates started accusing each other of sundry allegations.
In the midst of the confusion, a delegate, Mr. Buba Galadima, started shouting that the leadership should not manipulate the proceedings.
“No magomago, no wuruwuru,” he shouted several times.
The comment infuriated Akinyemi, who said such a statement was an affront to Kutigi and the leadership of the conference.
He said the leadership had never manipulated the proceedings and asked delegates to speak with decorum.
Nevertheless, Akinyemi said, “We are just going to go ahead and take decisions. We cannot continue like this. We have tried our best to be accommodative in this. Now, we go to the committee’s recommendation on resource control.”
The recommendation of the devolution committee that 13 per cent, as contained in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), be retained with a proviso that a percentage of the 13 per cent derivation devolves to the host communities, was presented.
He informed the delegates that the committee equally recommended that the issue of offshore/onshore dichotomy be left as it is.
There were proposals in the amendment that the derivation be increased to 18 per cent, 21.5 per cent, 25 per cent, 30 per cent and 40 per cent.
Akinyemi asked for suggestions on how to go about the voting but the delegates were unable to resolve this and a member of the Consensus Group, Chief Olu Falae, was recognised to speak.
Falae, amid shouts of ‘no’ ‘no’ by some delegates, said the committee had almost agreed on all issues.
The former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said, “We have agreed on the following and we therefore proposed amendments to the report of the committee on Devolution of Power:
“Provided that the Principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than 18 per cent of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account directly from any natural resources.
“That not less than 50 per cent of the total derivation funds accruable to a mineral bearing state shall be due and payable to the host communities within the state where the resources are derived in accordance with the production quota contributed by such communities.
“There shall be established a solid mineral development fund, which is currently three per cent of Federal Government Account referred to by the committee on page 40 of its report, it shall be increased to five per cent and will be applied to solid minerals development in the states.
“There shall be a National Intervention Fund, which will be five per cent of the annual revenue accruing to the account of the Federal Government for the stabilisation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism and insurgency, in the first place in the North-East of Nigeria and any other parts of the country affected.”
Falae added that in the alternative, the committee recommended that: “There shall be a National Intervention Fund, which shall be five per cent of the annual revenue accruing to the account of the Federal Government for the stabilisation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism and insurgency, in the first place in the North-East of Nigeria, North-Central, North-West and any other parts of the country affected.”
After this presentation, the conference became rowdy and several failed attempts by Kutigi to call the delegates to order failed.
The former justice said, “We are trying to promote democracy and this is why we have committees and sub-committees here and there.
“It appears that the committee didn’t finish its job as it was revealed by Coomassie. Our intention is to give the committee more time.”
Some delegates disagreed by shouting “no, no”.
The confab chairman said that he would meet with the chairmen and deputies of the 20 committees and the 50 wise men on Friday (today) by 11 am with the aim of resolving the logjam.
He, therefore, adjourned the conference around 2:34pm and said plenary would resume on Monday.
Some delegates in their reaction to the inability of the conference to resolve the issues said that they were disappointed with the actions of some of their colleagues.
Dokpesi said that out of the 35 members of the Consensus Group who met on the logjam, only three of them refused to sign the agreement.
He listed these people as Coomassie, Mohammed Kumaila and Bashir Dalhatu.
Dokpesi said, “There are people who are determined to make sure that the conference does not succeed. These people are the ones who were shouting in the plenary. But I know that they won’t succeed.”
But Kumaila said that the problem was that some people wanted the intervention fund to be for the whole country, saying that “the fund won’t be for the whole country.”
“It must be for a particular section of the country and it should not be turned to a slush fund for people who want to be using Boko Haram to make money,” he said.
A delegate from the South-South zone, Sergeant Awuse, said that it was wrong to say that the fund should be meant for the northern part of the country alone.
Awuse also rejected the idea of voting, saying it would be wrong to vote now since the delegates had not been voting from the beginning.
Both Prof. Obiorah Ike and Pastor Tunde Bakare also insisted that the intervention fund must be for the whole country.