The Chairman of the National Conference, Idris Kutigi, on Thursday described the task of the Conference “as the most arduous” in the history of conferences in the post-independence history of Nigeria.
Mr. Kutigi said the National Assembly has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that the Conference report translate into law.
At the closing ceremony of the Conference in Abuja during which its report was presented to President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Kutigi said there had been three previous conferences since 1960, but that of 2014 was most difficult because the members were given only four and a half months to work.
The report was presented to Mr. Jonathan at the ceremony held at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja the same venue it was inaugurated by the president on March 17.
“In the post-independence history of Nigeria, there have been four Conferences, including this 2014 National Conference; however, Mr. President, our own task has been the most arduous,” Mr. Kutigi said.
“The following statistics graphically illustrates this. The 1978 Constituent Assembly had a membership of 230 people and met for 9 months. The 1995 National Constitutional Conference had a membership of 371 people and met for twelve (12) months. The 2005 National Political Reform Conference was made up of 400 delegates and met for 5 months. We are 494 in membership and you made us do all this work in four and half months.”
The Conference chairman said when 494 Nigerians were assembled to address the fears, disappointments, aspirations and hopes which have accumulated over one hundred years, it was only to be expected that the debates would be robust and that indeed the debates were robust.
He also said it was only to be expected that tempers would fly and that tempers did fly.
Mr. Kutigi noted that it was not the five months period the Conference lasted that was newsworthy, but that “we overcame all the obstacles in our way.”
“Mr. President, we did not try to ignore or bury our differences. We addressed these differences while respecting the dignity of those holding these differences and sought to construct solutions which would become building blocks for a just and stable nation,” he said.
“Mr. President, we approved over 600 resolutions; some dealing with issues of law, issues of policy and issues of constitutional amendments. These resolutions did not deal with frivolous or inconsequential issues. We showed courage in tackling substantial and fundamental issues.”
The chairman said though time would not permit him to list all the critical and fundamental resolutions adopted, he emphasised that all of them (resolutions) were adopted by consensus.
He added, “Not once did we have to vote or come to a division. This is a message that we wish the world to hear loud and clear. Nigerians are capable of not only discussing their differences but are also capable to coming up with solutions to these difficulties.”
Mr. Kutigi, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, said the magnitude of what the Conference had done was reflected in the Report and Annexures of 22 volumes of approximately 10,335 (ten thousand, three hundred and thirty-five) pages. According to him, the official Report of the 2014 National Conference was also adopted unanimously.
He thanked the president for summoning the courage in summoning the Conference, adding “We have finally lain to rest the apprehension that a National Conference will lead to the disintegration of Nigeria. We have held a National Conference and we are more united today than ever,” he said.
Mr. Kutigi also thanked the members of the Conference Management and Conference delegates for the vibrant, even if at times turbulent, cooperation in ensuring a successful Conference.
He paid tribute to four of the delegates who died during the pendency of the Conference.
He listed them as Hamma Misau who died on March 27; Mohammad Jumare who died on May 5; Dora Akunyili, on June 7; and Mohammad Nur Alkali, on August 1, 2014.