Kutigi proposed a meeting with Confab’s 50 “wise men,” Committee chairmen and deputies Friday
The National Conference again on Thursday failed to agree on the revenue sharing formula for the nation, forcing it to adjourn suddenly to calm tempers among the 492 delegates.
The Conference adjourned more than one hour ahead of its closing time of 3.30 p.m.
Its chairman, Idris Kutigi, however, announced that he would meet with the 50 “wise men” of the Conference as well as the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the 20 Standing Committees on Friday morning to resolve the stand-off.
The wise men had earlier in the life of the Confab intervened on some issues, including the modalities for voting.
The Conference had similarly adjourned abruptly on Thursday after a report prepared by 18 leaders of the six geo-political zones and representatives of women, youth and labour movement.
The report of the group called, National Conference Consensus Group, read by a member, Ibrahim Gambari, recommended the payment of 18 per cent of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account directly to oil-producing states; five per cent for solid minerals development and five percent for stabilisation and rehabilitation of terrorism and insurgent-ravaged north east and the other two zones in the north.
However, the southern delegates kicked against the recommendation for the rehabilitation of the three northern zones with some of them saying it could encourage insurgency and violence in the country.
Tension on the floor
At resumption of sitting on Thursday, the Deputy Chairman of the Conference, Bolaji Akinyemi, who was moderating the proceedings, had announced that the report of the Consensus Group, which was presented on Wednesday, would be considered as soon as its convener, Raymond Dokpesi, arrived.
The announcement induced tension on the floor with some of the delegates kicking against the report of the group.
A civil society delegate from the South-South zone, Isaac Osuoka, raised a point of order, saying he was not aware of the existence of the group because “it is not one of the standing committees.” He said the committee was self-appointed and did not represent his views.
He was however rebuked by Mr. Kutigi who explained that it was not the first time such groups would be intervening in contentious matters.
A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba, said the Conference had agreed from the onset that only the recommendations of the Standing Committees would be thrown up for approval or rejection.
“That was what was agreed on. Anything other than that is not going to be acceptable to most of us here,” he said.
A Borno State delegate, Haruna Yerima, said, “I can see that you (leadership) have brought ballot boxes. Therefore, every recommendation should go through the ballot boxes. We are not going to take any voice vote on this issue at all. I am going to cast my vote.”
“No! No! No!”
However, Musa Adede from Cross Rivers State warned, “We are beginning to deviate from this conference. Mr. Chairman you should not be intimidated and you must do what the House wants you to do.”
When he arrived, Mr. Dokpesi and other members of the group were asked to go and harmonise the grey areas in the report and bring it to the plenary for consideration. While the group was away, the Conference voted on the other recommendations of the Committee on Devolution of Power.
Shortly after their return at about 1.36 p.m., Mr. Akinyemi invited them to present their harmonised report.
However, a northern delegate from Yobe State, Buba Galadima, repeatedly shouted, “No document! No document!” even as Mr. Dokpesi approached the deputy chairman with a document.
Mr. Coomassie, who chairs the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, a northern group, told the Conference that the Consensus group could not agree on the issues.
“I am involved in the discussions. Up to this evening we have not reached agreement and therefore any report submitted to you is null and void,” he announced.
Another member of the group, Olu Falae, amid the shouts of some delegates, urged them to be calm and that all problems would come and go while Nigeria would remain.
Mr. Falae, a Federal Government delegate from the South West, said the group had agreed on all issues except one “sticking point.” He proceeded to read a document containing some recommendations purportedly agreed by the Committee, amid the cries of “No! No! No!”
The document made available to journalists read:
Amend recommendation (a) on page 39 of the report of the Committee by substituting with the following:
-Provided that the principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than eighteen (18 per cent) of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account directly from any natural resources;
-That not less than 50 per cent of the total derivation fund accruable to a mineral bearing state shall be sue and payable to the host communities within the state where the resources are derived in accordance with the production quota constituted by such communities;
-There shall be established a Solid Mineral Fund which is currently 3 per cent of Federal Government Account referred to by the Committee on page 40 of its report, it shall be increased to 5 per cent and will be applied to Solid Minerals Development in the states;
-There shall be a Natural Intervention Fund, which will be 5 per cent of the annual revenue accruing to the account of the Federal Government for the stabilization, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism and insurgency, in the first instance in the North East of Nigeria and any other parts of the country affected; or in the alternative
-There shall be a National Intervention Fund which shall be 5 per cent of the annual revenue accruing to the account of the Federal Government for the stabilisation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism and insurgency, in the first instance in the North East of Nigeria, North Central, North West and any other parts of the country.
Following the rowdiness that trailed the presentation of the recommendations, Mr. Kutigi, who noted that the delegates were merely expressing their democratic rights, said it was apparent that the Committee had not concluded their assignment and should be given time to do so.
“Apparently, the committee has not finished its job. That is what we are told by Coommassie. We should give the Committee more time to sit,” he said as delegates shouted, “No! No! No!”
When some of the delegates shouted that the leadership should give them a fresh committee to work on the contentious issues, Mr. Kutigi reminded them that the group was self-appointed and that the leadership was not involved in the appointment of its membership.
Briefing journalists after the turbulent session, Mr. Dokpesi said the Consensus Group had agreed on all issues except on their phraseology.
“The point where we found it difficult to agree upon but which we agreed in principle and disagreed on the phraseology,” he explained. “The greater majority was that there shall be a national intervention fund which will be five per cent of the annual revenue accruing to the accounts of the Federal Government for the stabilization, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism and insurgency, in the first instance, in the North-east of Nigeria and any other parts of the country affected.
“The representatives from the North-West in particular said they wanted it to read, that there shall be a National Intervention Fund which shall be five percent of the annual revenue accruable to the accounts of the Federal Government for the stabilization, and reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism and insurgency and in the first instance, in the North-East of Nigeria, North-Central, North-West and any other part of the country.
“You can see that it is only the addition of North-West and any other part of Nigeria. That is the only bone of contention and we reflected as a committee that both drafts should be made available to the Conference but there are people that are determined to ensure that this Conference does not come to a proper ending.”
The delegate said the Committee had worked tirelessly and made a lot of concessions with the entire southern leaders and the North-Central leaders making sacrifices, but they were people who never wanted the Conference to succeed.
He added, “And these people are those that were shouting out today. Prof. Gambari was to get up and provide the report. Out of the 47 members that were available, 34 had signed the document. It was only Alhaji Coommassie, who said he was not going to sign. Bashir Dalhatu said he was not going to sign for Mohammed Kumalia. Every other person had signed. Professor (Iyorchia) Ayu was not available this morning to sign. So, this is where we are and I want to thank the leadership of the Conference for the patience and indeed all the delegates because there has not been a clear opportunity to explain the details of what had transpired.”