Confab adopts new modalities for debate on committee reports

Delegates grumble over proposal by leadership

Determined to meet the mid-July deadline for the submission of its report to the Federal Government, the National Conference on Monday altered the modalities for considering the reports of its 20 Standing Committee.

The delegates who want to contribute to the reports of the committees or suggest amendments to them are now to submit their views to the Conference secretariat about 24 hours before sitting.

The delegates will indicate the sessions they are proposing amendments, which should not be more than a page.

The amendment will now be read out by the Chairman or his deputy depending on who is presiding and votes taken immediately without debate.

The Confab began the consideration of the reports three weeks ago.

So far, only seven have been presented and debated. They are Environment; Science, Technology and Development; Public Service; Land Tenure and National Boundaries; Religion; Public Finance and Revenue; and Immigration and Related Matters.

Two other committees, namely Agriculture and Economic, Trade and Investment presented their reports on Monday, but they were not considered due to the new modalities.

The delegates were to submit their views by Monday to the secretariat before the consideration of the reports of the two committees would be taken on Tuesday.

Until Monday, delegates who wanted to contribute to the debate on any report were asked to submit their names to the secretariat and they would be called upon to present their views during the plenary session; before recommendations and amendments were considered one after the other and voted for.

However, midway into Monday’s plenary session, the Conference Chairman, Idris Kutigi, informed delegates of the new modalities. He said that had become necessary because going by the extension granted it by the Federal Government, the Conference had only five weeks to complete its work.

He warned that if the Conference continued at the current pace, it would not be able to submit its report to the government by mid-July.

“We’re proposing an amendment to the proceeding which we hope you will help us uphold,” Mr. Kutigi said.

“We’re suggesting that the chairman of each committee will present its report within the 30 minutes we usually give them and instead of calling over 100 people to speak on the report, we shall skip that hurdle and ask that whoever has an amendment to make will be called upon to send it to the secretariat and then we shall discuss these amendments. That will strengthen our efforts to do things properly. Amendments should be submitted a day before,” he said.

When he asked the delegates if they supported the proposal many of them agreed even as others sought further explanations on the issue.

However, a South-South delegate, Idongesit Nkanga, and a Federal Government delegate, Tony Nyiam, kicked against the new rule. They said the new modalities should not be applied when debating the last
four committee reports.

Mr. Nkanga, a former military governor of Akwa Ibom State, who was apparently referring to the report of the Committees on Devolution of Power (which handled the contentious issues of resource control);
Political Restructuring and Forms of Government; Political Parties and Electoral Matters; and Politics and Governance, said applying the new rules to the deliberation of their reports would not augur well for the Conference since they handled the main issues for which it was convened.

On his part, Mr. Nyiam, a retired army colonel from Cross River State, warned that that it would be dangerous if the new rules were used in handling the report of some of the committees.

“What we are trying to do is dangerous,” he warned.

But a delegate from Kano, Haruna Yerima, asked Mr. Kutigi to be firm and not bow to pressure to change the new modalities.

Apparently, considering the mood of the Confab, the Deputy Chairman of the Conference, Bolaji Akinyemi, who had earlier hinted the delegates about the new rules before Mr. Kutigi formally brought it up, was compelled to explain to the delegates that the leadership took the decision because it was near impossible to deliberate on the report of all the committees before mid-July.

He reminded the delegates that the Conference leadership made a passionate appeal to the Federal Government for six weeks extension and that “despite the fact that we were practically on our knees begging, the Federal Government approved only four weeks extension.”

The matter could not be resolved before the Conference proceeded on lunch break. Upon resumption, the Conference took the report of the Committee on Agriculture.

However, just as the Committee concluded its presentation, another Federal Government delegate from Rivers State, Ankio Briggs, brought up the issue again. She said though she was not at the morning session she was informed about it.

She warned that the new modalities would not augur well for the Conference since the reports yet to be deliberated upon were vital to the country’s well-being.

“If we rush the way we are rushing, including the reports of the critical committee, we will be in trouble,” she warned.

Although, her submission was greeted with disapproval from a section of the delegates, some of them used the opportunity to further speak on the matter.

An elder statesman from Ondo State, Olu Falae, said it was wrong for a delegate to move a motion or send an amendment without being allowed to explain it. He asked the Conference leadership to give any delegate proposing an amendment or a motion “one or two minutes” to explain his submission.

A member from Kano State, Bashir Dalhatu, however, invoked the rules of the Conference and faulted its leadership for allowing Ms. Briggs to bring up the matter, which, he said, had been decided on.

There was a slight uproar as Mr. Dalhatu presented his views.

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