Proceedings at the ongoing National Conference were yesterday adjourned following the news of the death of Maryamu, the wife of the conference Chairman and retired Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi.
Maryamu, aged 70, died at the National Hospital in Abuja in the early hours of yesterday and had already been buried in line with Islamic rites.
The Deputy Chairman of the conference and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, who presided over a brief session of the conference, said it was only proper that the conference be adjourned to enable delegates participate in the burial.
Delegates who readily and unanimously agreed to the proposal for adjournment, expressed shock at the death and the fact that the conference chairman could still preside over proceedings until the last day of sitting while the wife was in the hospital.
Akinyemi described the late Maryamu as a pillar of strength to the conference chairman and regretted that she had passed on at a time the retired justice was handling a critical national assignment and needed her closeness and wise counsel.
He said it was in demonstration of his deep sense of patriotism and commitment to the affairs of the country that Justice Kutigi continued to preside over the conference throughout the period his wife was lying ill in the hospital.
Before the adjournment yesterday, delegates had earlier in the week agreed not to have plenary session today which has been declared a public holiday by the federal government to celebrate Democracy Day.
It was agreed that proceedings at the plenary would resume on June 2 with deliberation on more reports of committees and adoption of recommendations contained in the reports.
Before the immediate adjournment of sitting yesterday, the conference had indicated its readiness to conduct debate on the report of the Committee on Public Finance and Revenue headed by Senator Adamu Aliero with Senator Azu Agboti as deputy chairman.
Also slated for resolution yesterday were issues arising from previous committee reports that were put in “bracket” by the principal officers of the conference due to objections raised when they came under consideration.
Such issues include the recommendation by the Committee on Land Tenure and National Boundaries-that the Land Use Act be expunged from the constitution for easy amendment of the Act for the benefit of the people.
Some of the delegates were opposed to the recommendation while others applauded it; a situation that forced the presiding officers of the conference to put the issue in “bracket” and appoint some delegates from every section of the country to meet and resolve the impasse.
Another of such issue placed in “bracket” by the presiding officers surfaced on Tuesday during deliberation on the report of the Committee on Religion that recommended the establishment of what it called Religious Equity Commission (RECOM).
The committee stated that the commission would have the statutory mandate of advocacy, enforcement of constitutional religious rights such as freedom of religion, freedom to acquire land for religious purposes among others.
While some of the delegates said the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should be empowered to handle such issues, others believed the new commission would serve useful purposes.
The committee envisaged that RECOM should serve as a platform that would bring individuals of the major religions in Nigeria to interact and crystalise ideas that would foster unity and tolerance; as well as monitor, investigate and expose cases of religious discrimination and violation.
The body is also meant to monitor cases of religious extremism – both in ideology and practice – and formulate counter narratives that are balanced and tolerant to neutralise such extremism.
It would have equally served as a watchdog and enforcer of religious rights of all persons, thereby creating confidence and trust in every Nigerian no matter their religious affiliations while also monitoring and investigating cases of hate speeches and utterances meant to incite religious tension and prosecute persons responsible.
When arguments for and against could not be resolved before close of session on Tuesday, the presiding officers decided to put it in abeyance till the next sitting.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has commiserated with the Chairman of the National Conference, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, whose wife, Mariama Kutigi, passed away yesterday.
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said: "The president prays that God Almighty will comfort family and grant them the fortitude to bear the loss."