The National Conference, headed by a retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Kutigi has until July 17, 2014 to complete its assignment and submit its report to the Federal Government. However, a fake 102 document entitled, “The National Conference 2014: Terms of Agreement of the Six Geo-Political Zones in Nigeria,” is being sold to delegates to the conference as the final resolution. An investigation by our reporter has also revealed that, along this stream of thought, a top member of the confab has made contacts with some delegates, asking them to support a move for him to draft a new Constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Sunday Trust investigation revealed that the 102-page document is being peddled by some South-South delegates to the National Conference, many of whom have spoken aggressively in favour of total resource control or robust derivation for oil-producing states. Our reporter learnt that the document is being used for negotiation with vulnerable delegates from other sections of the country, with promises that range for generous cash rewards, creation of states, and/or power rotation in states among the three geopolitical zones.
A sub-heading in the document says, “This part contains all the issues already agreed by consensus as harmonized by the Joint Committee. It is presented in a tabular form.” The columns include Serial Number, Issue, and the larger part of the A4 paper lists all the geopolitical zones in the following order: South-West, South-East, South-South, North-West, North-East, North-Central, and finally a column for Comments.
Incidentally, the pattern of resolution at the conference has begun to rhyme with the content of the fake terms of agreement contained in the document. For instance, last week the National Conference approved that states should be empowered to form their police and that local governments should be excluded in the sharing of revenue from the Federation Account.
The document, which may have been prepared some weeks ago, has these provisions, even before the conference delegates voted on them. Other issues in the document, which have not been agreed upon include the percentage of derivation. While the relevant committee insisted that the 13 per cent derivation is enough for oil producing states, considering the fact that other institutions of government specifically aimed at executing developmental projects receive huge sums of money from the federal budget, the fake report specifically stated that the conference has agreed to 50 per cent derivation. Again, the reports, apart from recommending an additional state for the South-East, also listed that two additional states should be created in each geopolitical zone so that the total number of states in the country be increased to 49.
Speaking to our reporter at the weekend on the issue of new states, Barrister Festus Okoye, a constitutional lawyer and delegate to the conference said creating additional 13 states had not been discussed or agreed upon at the conference.
According to him, “We’re going to discuss the report of the committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government, headed by General Ike Nwachukwu and Hon Mohammed Kumailia on Tuesday. I have that report before me. Page 10 of it says, “There shall be an additional state for the South-East. All other request for state creation should be considered on merit. There is nowhere in the report where 13 new states was recommended. That report you are holding is fake because the general house has not even debated the report, not to talk of arriving at a consensus.”
Barrister Okoye said further that any term of agreement that says there should be 50 per cent derivation is fake. “Derivation is contained in the Committee on Devolution, which has not been presented before the conference. The committee didn’t recommend 50 per cent derivation. It was Ms Annkio Briggs who wrote a minority report that recommended it, but it was rejected at the plenary. I was the delegate who suggested that the conference should reject her minority report because if we encouraged it, many other persons would come up with such reports. The entire house agreed with me and threw it out. How could anyone talk about 50 per cent derivation? That is fake!”
CONTENT OF THE TERMS OF AGREEMENT:
In Sections 2, 3,4,5, and 6 of the document, the designers recognised that the country should be a federating units, recognising only federal and states, excluding local governments. It says, “The core elements of the federation shall be as follows: (i) A Federal (Central) Government with states as the federating units (ii) Without prejudice to states constituting the federating units, states that wish to merge may do so in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In Section 7 on state creation, the document says, “(i) There shall be created an additional state for the South-East Zone, (ii)We support the creation of more states in all the geopolitical zones in order to resolve ethno-religious conflicts, ensure minority rights, and to ensure parity of states within zones. Consequently, the committee considered and recommends that the structure of states to be created and their names as follows: (1) North-Central (a) Edu State (b) Apa State (c) South Plateau; North-East (a) Savannah State (b) Katagum State (c) Amana State; North-West (a) Gurara State, (b) Kainji State (c) Ghari State; South East (a) Etiti or Equity State (b) Aba State (c) Adada State; South-West (a) Named states to be supplied after consultation by the zone; South South (a) Ogoja State (b) Anioma State. This would bring the total number of states to 49.
The issue of local government administration is tackled in Section 8 of the ‘Terms of Agreement.’ The report says (1) The committee reaffirms Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), that a system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is guaranteed; (2) That local governments shall, as at present not be a third tier of the federation; (3) states that wish to, may create local governments, which shall be under the jurisdiction of the states (4) the number, structure, form and administration shall be determined by the states… (6) that the list of the local governments contained in the First Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) be removed, and transferred to the states to be covered by a law of the State Houses of Assembly…
Reacting to a report on the issue, Professor Jerry Gana said in a statement that though local governments are not scrapped, “by making the Federation a two-tier structure, the implication was that only the federal and state governments should participate in the sharing of revenue accruing to the Federation Account.” In the face of the outcry over the lopsided revenue distribution, denying local governments of allocations from the Federation Account could further impoverish many parts of the country, considering the fact that the natural resources in many states have not been developed by the Federal Government to enable them contribute to the wealth of the states.
Forms and Content of Government:
The report has details of the forms and content of government in Section 11 in which it called for “a Modified Presidential System of Government, with the following core elements: (i) There shall be a president of the federation; (ii) For the purpose of election to the office of president, the whole of the federation shall be regarded as one constituency (iii) a candidate for an election of the office of president shall run as a sole candidate (iv) There shall be a vice-president for the federation (v) The President-elect shall select a vice president from the Legislature (vi) the president shall exercise full responsibility for his government and he shall select the ministers from the Legislature (vii) Subject to the provisions of (vi) above, the president may select, not more than 30 per cent of his ministers from outside the Legislature (vii) The president shall be entitled to serve two terms of office of four years each, running consecutively. The second term of a maximum of four years shall be subject to re-election…”
This section also provides that in case of death, incapacitation, impeachment or resignation of the president, the vice president shall act for 90 days, within which an election to the office of president should be held. It also made provision for unicameral legislature which members shall be full-time.
ROTATION OF POWERS:
Section 13 of the fake report called for the inclusion of rotation of powers in the Constitution and Electoral Act and in the constitution of political parties to affect all elective positions in the federal and state levels. It provides that, “The Office of President shall alternate between the North and the South and rotate among the zones.” In Sub-Section (3) it states that “The Office of Governor shall rotate among the 3 senatorial districts in that state.” These have not been discussed by the confab general house, so members are shocked that it has found its way into the fake report.
Another delegate to the conference and an elder from Kogi State, Alhaji Abdullahi Ohiomah, commenting on another recommendation of rotational presidency and governorship, which is contained in the fake report, told our reporter that the issue has not been deliberated upon by the House. “That is a fake recommendation, because it has not been debated and voted upon at the confab! I know that the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government, which report will be debated on Monday, has power rotation as part of its recommendations, but this has neither been tendered before us, nor have we debated it.
Though the idea is popular among a cross-section of delegates, we are insisting that power rotation should not be in the constitution. Rather, it should be in the Electoral Act, so that political parties should be tasked with its implementation among the geopolitical zones and senatorial districts. This has not been done. Whatever report they are circulating cannot be the position of the National Conference. It’s the handiwork of Fifth Columnists. It’s fake!”
Perhaps, the most contentious aspect of the fake report is what appears on pages 39 and 40, with the subheading: “Revise the Revenue sharing formula between the centre and the federating units. It called for the sharing formula between the Federal Government and Federating Units to be 42.5 per cent and 57.5 per cent respectively. It says further that “The Federation shall pay a sum equal to 50 per cent of the proceeds of the Value Added Tax (VAT) collected in the territory of a federating unit to that unit.” In Section 17, it said also that “The Federal Government of Nigeria shall, with the commencement of the implementation of the recommendations of this conference, provide a robust Special Mines and Mineral Development Fund not less than 5 per cent of Federation Account in any fiscal year to facilitate the diversification of revenues accruing to the Federation Account.” But the bombshell occurs in Section 18, under the sub-heading “Mining Royalties and Rents”.
It said, “There shall be paid by the Federation to each Federating Unit a sum equal to 50 per cent of (a) all proceeds of any royalty received by the Federation in respect of any mineral extracted in that Federating Unit (b) any mining rents by the federation during that year from within that federating unit.” And its section 19, entitled “Transition Provisions” has this to say, “Pending the development of mines and mineral resources in other parts of the country that are very well endowed, the Federation shall pay to the federating unit in whose territory minerals are extracted a sum equal to not less than 25 per cent and to be progressively increased by 2.5 per cent annually over a 10-year period.”
This aspect has been very contentious at the National Conference, to the point that Dr Iyorchia Ayu, a former Senate President and delegate to the confab, in a previous interview, described it as intimidation. According to him, what has accrued to the oil-producing states may be over 40 per cent of the country’s revenue from oil. He told Sunday Trust in a previous interview that: “. I think it is in that spirit that the constitution provides, after many years of centralisation, from like six per cent up to 13 per cent, which is taken from the consolidated revenue fund of the country. Over the years, several other agencies have been specifically put in place to address the problems of those oil producing areas. The first one I have forgotten the name, then we had OMPADEC, later General Obasanjo came in and put in place the Niger Delta Development Commission. A lot of resources are put there and after a series of agitations under President Yar’adua, Ministry of Niger Delta was added and in the law there is also provision that oil companies should make contributions. Then you have the amnesty programme, which is also another intervention. When you aggregate these things together, what the oil-producing areas get is far in excess of the 13 per cent. I can’t put a clear percentage on it, but I think when you put the resources going through these various channels, it is far more than 40 per cent that they are receiving in, addition to the fact that the offshore oil which belongs to the people of Nigeria as a whole, because in international law 200 kilometres off the Continental shelf doesn’t belong to a state, it belongs to the country. But they should be earning from pipeline, storage as all that are on their land. No problem with that, but when they begin to claim that even that which is beyond the continental shelf belongs to them, then I think they are turning international law upside down and Nigerians should not stand for that kind of unnecessary intimidation.”
The fake report has a 10-page section on national security, from Page 43 to 53, in which sundry recommendations have been made to the Federal Government. Among them include the dual policing system, which include a federal police force and state police force and the decentralisation of the police command, such that governors would be involved in the appointment of Commissioners of Police to states. Against all odds, the conference adopted this last week. In addition, it called for more funding of the police force, equipment of the army, the need to establish a ‘reserve force’, made up of retired army officers, local production of arms and ammunitions, strengthening the Civil Defence Corps, and sundry other recommendations.
Some 48 pages of this report contain what the authors termed: “Summary of Proposed Constitutional Amendments. These amendments were derived from what they have called the “Terms of Agreement.”
Barrister Okoye dismissed this so-called report as the height of desperation of those who went to the National Conference with all bloated expectations. “Many people came to the conference with all sorts of expectations. When their expectations were not met, they turned into Fifth Columnists. What they even do is to shoot down issues that have merits, in order to frustrate this conference. But, I tell you, this conference may not create a revolution, but some of the recommendations we are making will go a long way in helping to reshape this country. I’m confident about that.”
When Sunday Trust contacted the Assistant Secretary (Media & Communication), of the National Conference, Mr Akpandem James, on the fake terms of agreement in circulation he claimed that the secretariat had nothing to do with it.
According to him, “There are official conference documents, and I know what you’re talking about is not one of them. We have nothing called Terms of Agreement of the Six Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria. It may be one of the documents people who want to push their own agenda into the report of the conference are peddling about. Some of the people are printing all sorts of pamphlets and circulating them. Those are not our reports. The only documents the conference acts upon are reports from the committees. Such document that you’re talking about has no effect of the report of the conference.”
Mr James added, “We have told our secretariat staff not to circulate any document not vetted by the secretariat. They should not help anyone to circulate any document. Anyone who prints documents and circulates is on his own. Most of those documents have nothing to do with the conference.”