An ex-TUC President causes stir at conference
A delegate of the Civil Society Organisations at the ongoing National Conference, Femi Falana said on Wednesday that corruption has endangered the corporate existence of Nigeria.
He also advocated political, social and environmental justice in the country.
While debating President Goodluck Jonathan’s speech to the Conference, Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, said Nigeria was collapsing due to corruption and that there were two forces destabilising the country.
According to him, one of the forces challenging the unity of Nigeria was the group of youth who engaged in either armed robbery or kidnapping while the other one was the group of corrupt Nigerians engaged in pen robbery and inducing capital flight.
He recounted that during the military administration of former President Ibrahim Babangida, a number of progressive elements, including himself demanded the convocation of a Soverign National Conference, but that the junta said the demand was treasonable.
Mr. Falana said the ongoing National Conference provided Nigerians a window of opportunity to “find out why we are poor in the midst of plenty while a microscopic minority of the population is rich and
smiling to the bank daily.”
The delegate, who stated that the most important aspect of the 1999 Constitution was its second chapter, lambasted the Interior Minister over the last recruitment into the Nigeria immigration Service, NIS, which claimed the lives of about 19 job seekers.
According to him, the minister committed fraud by raking in about N700 million from hapless youth when he knew there were no jobs to give them.
“That is obtaining by force pretence,” he said. “You know you have no job to give them. That is 419.”
Mr. Falana warned against embracing the policies of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank, noting that Nigeria could not have “a free umbilical cord” as long as it continued to do so.
On his part, the joint presidential candidate of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, and Alliance for Democracy, AD, Olu Falae, said Nigeria’s problem began when the military in 1966 “murdered” the regional government, which had served as a tonic for the development of the country.
Mr. Falae, who was nominated into the Conference under the category of elder statesmen, said under regional administrations, the regions did the things Nigerians were celebrating today.
He recalled that the Premier of the Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo, introduced the first Television Station in Africa and built a stadium while other regions also made progress.
Mr. Falae, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, said the coming of the military “destroyed the parliamentary government” and that the current presidential system practiced by the country vests authority in one person who decides what to with the treasury.
He also called on the Conference to look at the Land Use Act, saying “It is absolutely essential because it is our way to empower the masses.”
He traced the history of the past conferences and debunked the claim that the ongoing one which also had nominated delegates had no “disability.”
Meanwhile, there was a brief rowdiness when Peter Esele, a former President of TUC, was discussing Mr. Jonathan’s speech.
Mr. Esele, while making his contributions, castigated the elderly delegates who were in power, asking what they did when during their time.
He said having listened to some of them, including past senators and governors, he was thinking whether to cry or to laugh, but he chose the latter.
“Nigeria is not working because Nigerians are not working. If yesterday’s men are complaining, what did they do when they were in power? We have former senators here, what law did they pass when they were there?
He recounted how a former a former Governor of Ebonyi State, Sam Egwu, who was also a education minister, held a party when the educational sector was in crisis.
“As TUC President, I wrote a letter calling for his sack,” he said.
Mr. Esele, who told his colleagues that religion is a private affair, said he did not care who the president or governor is, but who could provide him with a job.
He also lashed out at former Inspectors-General of Police, who he said did not do anything meaningful during their time.
However, his contribution was interrupted when a delegate, Anayo Nnebe raised a Point of Order Order 9 (10), asking Mr. Esele to withdraw calling names.
Mr. Nnebe, a former Speaker of a State House of Assembly, said “For him to make direct reference is wrong. When he was talking about IG, he didn’t talk about embezzlement. The language is offensive and I want him to withdraw it.”
This was objected by some delegates, who shouted no, no.
However, the Deputy Chairman, Bolaji Akinyemi, who was moderating the session, ruled in favour of Mr. Nnebe, saying “We can make our point without mentioning names. I therefore sustain the order.”
Thereafter, Mr. Esele, who said the Point of Order “was trying to disturb my flow but I am back,” repeatedly shouted ‘Solidarity! Solidarity!
Resuming his contribution, the TUC delegate said in moving the country forward, “we need to know the basis for rule of law. Once we agree that we made a law, irrespective of who you are, let us agree to
respect the law.”
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