Draft constitution splits conference as North’s delegates meet
A six-year single term for the president and governors, 50 per cent derivation and the scrapping of the 774 local councils. These are the highlights of the draft constitution presented yesterday to National Conference members in Abuja.
But the draft constitution, given to members along with the draft proposal of the conference for their review before discussion starts tomorrow, did not go down well with the northern delegates who will meet today in Abuja.
The meeting will decide on whether to confront the leadership on the draft constitution or boycott the conference’s final leg.
Most Northern delegates were shocked that a draft constitution was “smuggled” into the agenda of the conference, in spite of the persistent denial by its leadership.
One of the highly-respected Northern delegates, who spoke anonymously, said: “It was shocking to hear that a draft constitution is being circulated to members. We have summoned an emergency meeting of Northern delegates for Tuesday (today).
“The Northern delegates are angry that extraneous issues are being brought into the agenda of the National Conference.
“If the government had made up its mind from the beginning, there was no basis for bringing 492 Nigerians for the conference.
“Our meeting might also take a firm decision on whether to go ahead with the conference or boycott its final stage. We cannot be used for selfish purpose.”
A delegate, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, described the draft constitution as a “fraud”.
Mohammed said: “We are not aware of the draft constitution; it is a fraud because no new constitution was deliberated upon.
“We raised it on the floor of the National Conference and the Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, and his deputy, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, told us that it is not our business to write a new constitution.
“I can hazard a guess that Northern delegates will certainly reject this ambush.”
Another delegate, Yinka Odumakin, however, said: “The conference is yet to decide whether it will opt for a draft constitution or present a bill on amendments to the 1999 Constitution.
“What the National Conference Secretariat did was to make our job easier for us by giving us documents on a bill proposing some amendments to the 1999 Constitution or a draft new constitution.
“With what we have done (resolutions), we have mutilated the 1999 Constitution. But it is left to the National Conference delegates to decide on either amendments or a new constitution.”
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