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Confab ends plenary, fails to agree on national issues

The National Conference on Monday ended plenary, leaving unresolved key national issues, including the disagreements over derivation, the national intervention fund and the formula to be adopted by the three tiers of government for sharing funds from the Federation Account.

The conference will however reconvene on August 4 to adopt the report of the conference before it is submitted to the Federal Government.

Chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, said the 50 “wise men” and the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the 20 committees established by the delegates, had agreed that the Federal Government should set up a technical committee to address the contentious issues.

Kutigi had earlier in the morning announced to delegates that the selected members scheduled to meet with him last Friday would still meet with a view to resolving the knotty issues.

The meeting could not hold because over 60 delegates boycotted it.

He said, “I’m still of the view that the committee that is handling the matter of coming to a compromise will still do their job.

“We couldn’t have the meeting on Friday. So, I am proposing that we give them two hours to meet with us.”

He then invited the “50 Wise Men, committees co-chairmen, chairmen and Deputy Chairmen to meet now in our usual place.”

At the end of the meeting, which lasted for over four hours, it was apparent that the group of delegates were unable to agree on the issues that necessitated the call for the meeting.

But the ‘‘wise men’’ and the leadership of the 20 committees had last week claimed that they had agreed 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 lay able 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.”

Last week, the delegates were unable to agree on the zones that would benefit from the proposed five per cent fund.

While the northern delegates insisted that the fund must be enjoyed by the three zones in the region, which are North-East, North-West and North-Central, the southern delegates were of the view that the fund must be made available to all the zones in the country.

After the four-hour meeting on Monday, Kutigi claimed that the selected delegates had agreed on the following:

“Review the percentage of revenue allocation to states producing oil and other resources, reconstruct and rehabilitate areas affected with insurgency and internal conflict problems and diversify the Nigerian economy by stretching the Nigerian economy with solid minerals sector.”

Apart from this, he said the “conference also notes that assigning percentage for increase in derivation principles and setting up special intervention fund to address issues of reconstruction and the rehabilitation of areas ravaged by insurgency and internal conflicts as well as solid minerals development requires technical details and consideration.

“Conference therefore recommends that government should set up a technical committee to determine appropriate percentage for the three issues and advised government accordingly.”

While some delegates clapped after he finished reading the said agreement, other shouted ‘no, no.”

It was not clear why the recommendation of the committee was read by Kutigi himself.

Last week, a member of the wise men committee, Chief Olu Falae, had presented the “agreement of the committee”, which was disputed by the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie.

The former Inspector General of police said he and other delegates from the North were not part of the agreement.

Some delegates from the northern region had also refused to sign the agreement read by Kutigi on Monday. Before Kutigi presented the said agreerment, his deputy, Prof. Bolaji Akniyemi, had called out the names of four delegates, asking them to see the leadership of the conference.

Those he called were Falae, Mohammed Kumalia, Iyochia Ayu, and Ike Nwachukwu.

No reason was given for their invitation.

However, a delegate, Mr. Francis Doukpola from Bayelsa State, raised a point of order concerning the report presented by Kutigi. He was recognised by the conference chairman.

Doukpola read Order 9, Rule 9 of the conference, which states that “It shall be out of order to attempt to reconsider any specific question upon which the conference has come to a conclusion.”

He claimed that since the conference had taken a decision on true federalism, it implied that every state would have total control on its resources and that the states would now be paying tax to the Federal Government.

He, therefore, said that there was no need to say a committee should advise the government on the matter.

Kutigi, while ignoring his submission, called for a motion to adopt the report of the Committee on Devolution of Power.

Musa Adede moved the motion and was seconded by Adaeze Mwuzo.

A majority of the delegates voted in support of the adoption of the report.

Kutigi thereafter called for a motion to adjourn the plenary.

Senator Ibrahim Ida moved the motion to adjourn until August 4 and the motion was seconded by Mr. Okon Osun from Akwa Ibom State.

A delegate from Ondo State, Mr. Sola Ebiseni, faulted the decision of the conference to refer the decision on derivation and others to the Federal Government.

He said the conference shirked its responsibility by tasking the Federal Government with setting up of a technical committee to examine the issue.

“What we did today was simply to abdicate our responsibility by throwing the issue back at Mr. President, who sent us here to assist in proffering solutions to some of our national challenges,” he said.

Falae said he was happy that the conference did not end in chaos. He said that though the conference had been unable to arrive at decisions on some issues, he said there was no other option left but to ask the Federal Government to set up the technical committee.

A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said that a nation and people that depended on sharing would always end up this way.

“In view of the reality that the conference is composed of people whose preoccupation is the collection and sharing of rent and not production of wealth, it was therefore not strange that there was no consensus on the part of members,” he said.

The Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Umeh, however said there was nothing wrong in asking the government to set up the committee.

But his position was faulted by the National Chairman of Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu, who told one of our correspondents that the action was an act of cowardice.

He said, “It is an act of cowardice by arriving at that decision, especially on the part of derivation. We have agreed on 18 per cent on this.

“It is badly managed by the leadership. We couldn’t agree on these issues because some people were here to scuttle it. Governors were busy calling them not to agree and to disrupt the conference.”

[Punch]

 

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