Delegates at the ongoing National Conference in Abuja, yesterday, stripped the chairman, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, of powers to appoint chairmen, deputy and members of the 20 standing committees.
The delegates were squarely divided on who should be vested with such powers.
While some delegates opined that the chairmen, vice chairmen and secretaries of the various committees should be left in the hands of the chairman, Kutigi, others strongly believe that delegates should be given the freedom to decide the committees wish to belong to and vested with the powers to appoint their own chairmen.
For several minutes, proponents and opponents of the constitution of the committees expressed fears that a particular zone or region could hijack the process and take the lion’s share in the leadership of the various committees.
Edwin Clark, Olu Falae, Yisah Brimoh are among the delegates who strongly believe that the powers to appoint the leadership of the various committees should be vested in the hands of the members.
Dr. Sam Egwu argued that contrary to the provisions of the standing orders of the conference, where the chairman has the powers to review the performance of committee chairmen, the norm should be reversed since the chairman lacks the powers to appoint them in the first place.
Kutigi reluctantly agreed and also transferred the powers to review the performance of committee chairmen and their deputies to members.
Female delegates also stood their grounds, arguing that the leadership of the conference must factor in the issue of gender quality in the constitution of the various committees.
The women argued that for every committee headed by a man, a woman must be appointed as his vice in order to have a balanced representation.
The delegates were also divided over the voting and adoption of conference decisions.
Whereas some delegates, especially those from the North favoured 75 per cent, several others, especially those from the southern part of Nigeria, insisted on two-third majority as a rule for passing resolutions adopted at the talks.
At the flag off of the conference last week, President Goodluck Jonathan recommended the use of consensus, or three-quarter majority, in arriving at decisions, a position that was re-affirmed by chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, yesterday.
The debate on the formula for adoption of resolutions and decisions on issues was initiated by Chief Mike Ozekhome, a Federal Government delegate.
He flayed the reliance on 75 per cent for passing resolutions, saying it was “amorphous, elephantine and a behemoth.”
the lawyer said there was no way the conference will muster 75 per cent, especially on contentious issues, like regionalism, resource control and state creation.
Though delegates attempted to shout him down, Ozekhome recommended two-third majority in adopting resolution. He said such was the global standard at conference, “like this to decide on issues affecting the people.”
His position was not supported by Justice Kutigi, who quickly reminded him of President Jonathan’s recommendation on the issue. He said the matter was closed.
Several delegates, however, shouted ‘no,’ in disagreement with the chairman.
Former National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. Ahmadu Ali, warned the conference against restricting itself to the 75 per cent recommendation. He echoed the views of Ozekhome, insisting that the standard practice was two-third. He also urged the conference to stick to that.
Former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, on his part, warned against forcing “our will on the outcome of the conference,” adding: This will not get bus anywhere.”
He contended that the consensus arrangement, as spelt out by the chairman, was a better option that will take care of interest of Nigerians.
Similarly, Wakili Adamawa, backed Jimeta’s position, saying the recommendation of the president for 75 per cent was to ensure that every vote adopted represents general interest of Nigerians.
Chief Ayo Adebanjo countered these positions. He said though everybody was interested in working for the issues that will make the country remain as one, the issues that are causing dissention must be tables and ironed out.
He also warned against giving impossible conditions that would make it easy for those who he accused of kicking against the conference to win at the end of the day.
“We must not play into the hands of those who are against this conference by insisting that 75 per cent must be used,” he said.
He argued that two-third majority was the standard world over in conferences of this nature.
On his part, Gani Adam, another delegates from the South West, supported Adebanjo’s stand and moved a motion asking the conference to discard the 75 per cent recommendation and adopt two-third.
Also, Bisi Adebiyi, representing Ogun State, said two-third majority was representative enough and would not make the nation a laughing stock in the eyes of the world.
Another issue that caused huge controversy was the procedure for replacement of officers of the conference, who either resigned or became incapacitated.
The rules of procedure specified three days for replacement by the president, but some delegates suggested that the President should be given 48 hours within which to effect replacement.
President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Osahon, in his submission, suggested that if the president fails to replace the said officer within 48 hours, the conference should, on its own, elect a replacement.
The submission was objected to by Obiora Ike representing Enugu State, who argued that the conference lacked the power to compel the president to appoint a replacement within a specified time.
He recommended that the matter should be left the way it was drawn in the procedural rules.
Barr. Ali Bashir rejected Ike’s recommendation, insisting that the president could be compelled to act.
After a long debate by delegates, Justice Kutigi ruled that the issue should be left as it is. He said the conference lacked the legal powers to compel the president.
Similarly, the delegates disagreed on the time limits for the daily business of the conference.
Whereas some delegates suggested a reduction in the time for the conference to end at 4pm, others insisted that current arrangement is perfect.
Three former governors, including Segun Osoba, Obong Victor Attah and Chukwuemeka Ezeife, recommended a reduction in time allotted to deliberations and break. They want the day to end at 5 pm.
Osoba’s contemporay and former governor of Kebbi State as well as two former Senate presidents, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu and Adolphus Wabara, argued that the time should be left the way it is.
They insisted that the delegate may soon discover that the time is inadequate when delegates break out into committees.
A student union leader, Chinonso Obasi, asked those who are not comfortable with the time to resign.