National Conference tees off in rowdy session as delegates bicker over procedures

The national conference inaugural sitting yesterday kicked off in a rowdy session, just twenty four hours after it was declared open by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The maiden sitting, attended by virtually all the delegates and  which lasted for about two hours recorded mild disagreements on some issues, especially on procedures.

The Chairman  of the conference, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, made frantic efforts to calm down some of the delegates.

The  sitting began at about 10.50am. It was later adjourned to Monday. After the introduction of the management team of the conference, the secretary, Valerie Azinge, took delegates through the retinue of activities and the modus operandi the conference will adopt.

The conference became rowdy when, Kutigi opened the floor for delegates to challenge some of the submissions made by the secretary. While some concurred, others disagreed and for several minutes, delegates were engaged in a game of wits on who to speak first.

Two delegates from Edo and Rivers states, Charles Edosomwan and Prof. Amakievi Gabriel, were shouted down  when they objected to the earlier submission made by the conference secretary that names of delegates will be tagged in the various chairs.

Leader of former governors to the conference, Segun Osoba, advocated that special preferences should be given to the elderly and physically challenged persons.

Making further explanations on the activities that will shape the conference, the secretary said: “Arrangements are being made to enable Muslims have their prayers every day. No prayer ground is made available for the Christians. The secretary of the conference said a place will be provided later.

“The conference will run from Mondays through Thursdays. The conference will begin at 10am each day and will end by 6pm.

“Regarding the payment, everything has been monetised, from transport to accommodation and other things.  The rules and the authentic copies of the constitution will be made available to delegates so that they can get familiar with the contents before our next sitting.

“Before any sitting, proceedings of the previous day will be adopted by the delegates. We must agree on the previous proceedings before we can go into the business of the day.

“Cost of hiring personal aides by delegates is not captured in the budget for the conference. If delegates want to hire personal aides, they need to pay with their money.

“We will try and be as democratic as possible. We will give people the right to challenge anything. If the delegates decide at the end of the day that they want a new constitution, those things will be accommodated. When the sitting starts properly, we will have three months to come up with resolutions on the way forward for our country.”

Constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, however, challenged the provision of praying for Muslims and the exclusion of Christians. He said the same treatment should be meted out to Christians in the interest of fair play.

He asked: “Some of us are in our Lent period. Since you have provided a place for the Muslims to pray, are you going to do the same for Christians?”

The conference took a new twist when Florence Ita-Giwa, representing Cross River State and His Royal Highness, Alhaji Nuhu Mohammed Sanusi, Emir of Dutse, representing Traditional Rulers, alleged that the problems rocking the country were created by many of the delegates at the conference.

Ita-Giwa said: “Most of the people here are the ones that created the problems in this country. We are also here to correct those mistakes and forge a new part for the country.”

Emir of Dutse, Sanusi said: “We are here to find a lasting peace to the problems of this country. We must see ourselves as Nigerians first during this conference before anything else. All of us here are responsible for the problems of this country. We must find a way to solve those problems. There is poverty in this country and we must find a way to create jobs for our people. These are the issues we should focus on. We are not here to fight, but find a way forward.

Radical pastor, Tunde Bakare,  came hard on the chairman, Kutigi, accusing him of using a religious phrase alien to many of the delegates. He advised everyone to stick to the language of the day and avoid unnecessary utterances.

Bakare said: “The chairman spoke in some language we did not understand. The chairman needs to be fair and stick to a language we all understand. We must not bring religion here.

“We must keep to time. If we say 10am, we must keep to that. We are the same people that usually take on our lawmakers for taking huge money. If you have your personal assistants, you need to pay them.” – The Sun.

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