Conference backs down on draft constitution

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Aug 15th, 2014
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The suspicion between North and South delegates over a draft constitution was resolved yesterday as the curtain was drawn on the controversial National Conference.

Conference chair Justice Idris Kutigi fixed August 21 for the submission of the final report to President Goodluck Jonathan.

The draft constitution circulated to delegates by the conference leadership was flatly rejected by the North delegates who insisted that the conference was not mandated to produce draft constitution for the country.

Two motions, one by Chief Jerry Okwuonu and former Rivers State Governor, Peter Odili, and an amendment by Alhaji Adamu Waziri turned out to be the tonic delegates needed to calm frayed nerves to pave the way for the adoption of Conference reports.

One of the motions was essentially to change the nomenclature of volume three of the reports from “Draft Constitution 2014” to “Proposed Amendments to the 1999 Constitution”.

It was sponsored by Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri.

Proceedings opened shortly after the adoption of Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday August 13, 2014 with a “motion to mandate the secretariat to vet and effect amendment” to the three reports prepared by the secretariat.

Okwuonu and Odili in their joint motion noted that: “Whereas the secretariat has done a very marvelous job of compiling the report of the Conference and presenting same to us in easily readable and cross-checkable format; and

“Whereas delegates have perused all the reports and submitted in writing all items of omission or incorrect addition to the final report; and

“Bearing in mind the dual necessity of bringing the conference to a close for purposes of not unduly over-reaching the logistics provision of the conference and not unnecessarily prolonging the continued conglomeration of people in contradiction to the prescription of Health Authorities especially as the country tackles the Ebola crisis.

“It is hereby moved that the secretariat be mandated to vet all the written submission by delegates and make necessary correction thereby providing the final draft of the Conference reports

“In particular, we observe that volume iii, titled Draft Constitution, conveys an attempt to insert various resolutions and recommendations of a constitutional nature that were adopted by Conference as proposed amendments to the appropriate sections of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

“We recall and welcome the clarification and confirmation offered by Conference Chairman at plenary on August 13, 2014 that indeed Vol. iii contains proposals for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution.

“We are aware that delegates have responded to this call and submitted to the Secretariat their various observations and suggested amendments to the draft.

“In preparing the final report, we urged the Conference Secretariat to keep faith with and reflect fully and accurately all resolutions and recommendations accepted by the Conference and as contained in votes and preceding that were formally adopted.

“Subject to the acceptance of the foregoing understanding, assurances and conditions and in accordance with the Procedure Rules, 2014 of the Conference, we move for the validation and adoption of the draft reports contained in volume 1,2 and 3 without further debate.

“In the spirit of the consensus building cultivated by members and to maintain the bridges built during the currency of the Conference, we urge all delegates to subscribe to this plea.”

Kutigi put the two motions separately to voice vote. What followed was a near unanimous acceptance by the delegates.

With the turn of events, delegates burst into spontaneous chest-beating and singing of the old National Anthem “Nigeria We Hail Thee.”

Kutigi called on Second Republic Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide, to move a motion for the adoption of the final Conference Report.

Akinjide said, “It is a singular honour for me to be called to move the motion for the adoption of the National Conference Report 2014 Volumes one, Volume two and Volume three (as amended.)

“Mr. Chairman, I feel very honoured to be called upon to play this role. I entered parliament before Nigeria independence and I was in parliament at the time of independence and I was also in parliament after independence. So to be called upon to play this role is unique and also unprecedented. On behalf of you all, Distinguished delegates I so move.”

Kutigi called the youngest delegate to the Conference, 24-year old Miss Yadoma Bukar Mandara, to second the motion for the adoption of the report.

The adoption of reports over, delegates took turns to pour encomium on the leadership of the Conference for their maturity in steering the conference proceedings.

The leader of the Northern delegates, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, told reporters  that it was not the intention of delegates from the north to break up the conference as being insinuated.

He said the interest of the delegates from the north to the conference was to ensure that the proper thing was done.

Former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu re-echoed Coomasie’s sentiment.

Ayu added that the Nigerian should realise that the north holds the unity of the country.

He added that the disintegration of the north would lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.

Professor Auwalu Yadudu said: “If they implement the recommendations according to procedure and set outlined by 1999 constitution it will become an amendment and become part of our constitution.

“Our opposition was that we do not have, we continue  not to have the power to draw up a new constitution or even name it draft constitution 2014.

“The secretariat has corrected itself, the motion to that effect was moved and accepted clearly stating that we are renaming Volume 3 to become proposed amendment to the 1999 constitution. No more, no less.

“Let it be clear that it is not the name that we have problems with but the fact is that when the documents were given to us, in addition to the three documents, there was a bill to introduce a new constitution.

“There was another one titled draft constitution that was not part of volumes 1,2 or 3.

“That was the one we opposed and continue to oppose and that was the one, on advise that was withdrawn and would not be part of the documents they will submit to Mr President.

“Volume 3, if you look at it was tabulated into what we considered to be recommendations and resolutions of the conference which touched on the constitution and they go to the appropriate section of the constitution to propose an amendment.

“That is how an amendment to the constitution is done and not to draw up a completely new constitution, which was what we pointed out them which the conference Chairman accepted and they have done the right thing”.

Apart from fixing the date of submission of final report to Jonathan for August 21, Kutigi said a clean copy of the report would be produced between today and August 20 while a dinner would hosted for delegates.

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