National Conference: Civic groups demand reduction in number of government-sponsored delegates

The organisations say they will submit list of own delegates soon.

Seven pro-democracy civil society organisations, CSOs, have demanded the pruning of the number of delegates to be sponsored by the federal and state governments to the proposed National Conference, NC. They also demanded an increase in the slots allocated to civil societies.

The groups also demanded that the outcome of the conference be subjected to the validation of the peoples of Nigeria in a referendum.

The organisations made the demands at a press conference jointly addressed by their representatives in Abuja on Wednesday.

Those who addressed the conference were Auwal Rafsanjani (Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre); Baba Aye (United Action for Democracy); Isaac Osuoka (Social Action); and Idayat Hassan (Centre for Democracy and Development).

Others were Jaye Gaskia (Protest to Power Movement); Chido Onumah (African Centre for Media & Information Literacy; Ezenwa Nwagwu (Partners for Electoral Reform); and Y. Z. Yau (Centre for Information Technology and Development).

According to the modalities and guidelines of the proposed confab announced by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Pius Anyim, last Thursday, the federal government, states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, are to nominate about 181 out of the 492 delegates that will attend the National Conference.

The breakdown shows that 46 will be nominated by the President, 108 by governors [that is each governor will nominate 3 delegates], one by the FCT, and another 26 by the Federal Government.

CSO on National conference

On their part, the Civil Society Organisations are to nominate 24 delegates to the confab. The CSOs had nominated only six delegates to the defunct National Political Reform Conference, NPRC, held in 2005.

The seven organisations, which contended that the 24 slots reserved for the CSOs were actually meant for pro-democracy civil society movement, said rather than having huge government-sponsored delegates, there should not be less than two-thirds of delegates for the independent non-state actor representatives.

They recounted the role of the CSOs in the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria, saying that they had always canvassed the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference and would be involved in the coming confab.

“We want to state that the same groups which formed the driving and most consistent force in the struggle to enthrone democracy in Nigeria have remained central to the struggles of the masses,” they said.

“We have historically called for a Sovereign National Conference as a framework for determining a just and people-driven Nigerian state and to address the fundamental political, economic and other socio-cultural challenges facing our peoples and country.”That is why we have consciously decided to robustly engage this National Conference. As part of this engagement, we, as pro-democracy civil society organisations, have conducted series of consultations and meetings in the different geo-political zones and nationally.

“As a result, we are pleased to announce that we will submit the list of civil society nominees to the National Conference through the office of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation in the next 24 hours.”

They suggested that two months into the three-month conference, there should be a break to enable delegates to report back to their constituents and revalidate the mandates they were given.

The organisations also urged Nigerians to take their destiny into their own hands, and to proceed to begin to organise regional, state and pan-communal delegates conferences to aggregate positions and demands towards the National Conference.

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