The Chairman of the National Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, yesterday announced to delegates that the federal government had approved the extension of the conference by four weeks
He said the Secretariat had applied for a six-week extension but was granted four weeks instead. Kutigi explained that after Wednesday’s sitting, the principal officers of the conference met with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, to consider its request on the need for more time to enable the conference conclude its deliberations.
Before the time extension, the delegates were to end deliberations by June 17, however, with the one month extension granted by the government, the conference will now end on July 17.
The implication of the extension is that delegates will receive an extra one month sitting allowance. In the spirit of gaining time, the delegates agreed to bring forward the time of resumption of plenary sessions from 10 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Before the debates commenced, the chairman called on the co-chairmen of the Committee on Devolution of Power, Chief Victor Atta and Ibrahim Commassie, to submit their report.
The duo could hardly lay the report on the table when a member of the committee, Mrs. Ankor Briggs, asked for the permission of the conference to present a minority report.
Her move generated a lot of debate with many delegates arguing that the conference can only accept the minority report if it is ascertained that the committee’s report was not reached with a consensus or 70 percent vote majority.
Kutigi said delegates’ observation was apt, adding that going by the rules, decisions of the conference have to be governed by either consensus or 70 percent vote majority.
Another delegate told the chairman that the minority report of Briggs should be upheld until it has been decided if there was actually a resolution of issues by the devolution committee based on consensus or 70 percent vote.
A delegate, Festus Okoye, also advised against opening a Pandora box, adding that if each delegate who disagrees with the position of a committee is to submit a minority report then “we are going to over stay our time.”
He said the conference should throw out the individual report so as not to set a precedence.
At the end the deliberation, the chairman ruled on the matter, insisting that minority reports are unknown to their rules, but that the only thing that was stated was either consensus or 70 per cent.
At this point, one of the delegates stood up and shouted at the Secretariat, saying: “This is a tyranny of the majority on minority and it is unacceptable.”
An infuriated chairman warned the protesting delegate that if he continued to protest (shout), he would not hesitate to walk him out of the plenary.
“If you continue in that manner you shall be walked out to let decent people sit,” he said.
Midway into the plenary, Kutigi said he had a security alert from security details that drivers and aides of the delegates were meeting at the National Judicial Institute Club House on how to disrupt the activities of the conference.
Kutigi said he was informed that the protesting aides planned to re-group outside the plenary hall to demonstrate against the non-payment of allowances.
He threatened to arrest and detain any driver or aide of the delegates who tries to disrupt the activities of the conference for whatsoever reason.
“We do not want to begin to arrest personal aide of the delegates but if they go on with their unruly behaviour or trying to disrupt the conference then we shall be forced to arrest them, so go and control them and tell them that the secretariat has not made provision for any allowance for them,” he said.
On the unresolved issue of grazing reserves, the chairman explained that the reason why the matter would not be brought up in the morning for resolution was because it had been put in bracket.
Also, the Deputy Chairman, Bolaji Akinyemi, said he got the permission of the chairman to consult with a few people at lunch time, promising that he hope the issue would be resolved before the end of the day.
He said consultations on it will be concluded during break so that the entire report can be adopted.
Accordingly, on resumption, the deputy chairman announced the conclusion of consultations on the pending issue of establishing grazing reserves, and asked Okoye to read out the motion.
Okoye therefore moved the motion and gave the prayers saying: “An integrated development and livelihood modernisation programme would be designed and implemented to address the issue of settling nomadic herdsmen into settled communities based on established cattle ranches with fodder development technologies, including abattoirs, processors and other businesses along the livestock value chain.
“That this integrated development and modernisation programme be funded by both federal and state governments in the states where such settlements are established.
“ And that the integrated development programme be undertaken and wrapped up within a period of five to 10 years after which such settlements should have become self-sustaining with the full integration of the nomadic herdsmen community into modern Nigeria political economy.”
The motion was seconded by Labour Party (LP) delegate, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu.
Just as the conference was on the herdsmen matter, another issue arose, which was on the proposal by the Committee on Land Tenure and Boundary Matters to have the Land Use Act removed from the constitution.
While explaining why the Act should be taken out of the constitution, the committee said it would make the Act amenable to changes as considered appropriate to meet the demands of time.
However, while the delegates voted to reject the proposal to establish a National Land Commission or People’s Heritage Act as proposed by the committee and a delegate, there was a stumbling block when it came to voting on the removal of Land Use Act.
Like what happened Wednesday, debates to remove the land use act from the constitution was in stalemate because the northern delegates opposed the removal.
The land use act is protected by section 215 of the 1999 constitution. Though, the deputy chairman of the conference, Akinyemi, had earlier ruled in favour of a voice vote, the northern delegates protested against it. But after a rowdy session, Kutigi ruled that the debates on Land Use Act should be suspended to allow for negotiation due to the controversy therein.
Delegates like Senator Ibrahim Ida, Buba Galadima, Hon. Musa Elayo, Junaid Mohammed, and Nasiru Kura opposed the removal of the Land Use Act from the constitution, as southern delegates, led by Wale Oshun and Duke Orok, insisted that the Land Use Act be removed from the constitution as its implementation affected business and investment.
After a heated debate, discussion on whether to remove the land use act from the constitution or not was suspended till next plenary to ensure a consensus on it.
Also, the conference rejected the recommendation that Bakassai and other community whose lands were acquired should be compensated.
The conference approved that any land acquired by government for public use after 10 years should be returned to the former owners and a certain percentage be paid to owners of such lands by government.
The plenary session further rejected the recommendation for the creation of a National Land Commission.
The deputy chairman had put the matter to vote and a majority of the delegates gave a resounding support through their voice vote backing the removal.
But realising that there are some of the delegates who were still protesting against the way the votes went, Kutigi intervened and advised that the matter be put on hold for more consultations to be made.
He said discussions or debate on the matter will be re-opened at another date.
His intervention did not go down with some of the delegates who felt the matter should have been ruled based on votes already taken.
Before the debate commenced, the chairman of the committee on Land Tenure and Boundary Matters, General A.B Mammam, said the committee’s had made recommendation on how the country can achieve her full potentials in land resources, including minerals resources.