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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

From The Nigerian National Conference 2014 (ConfabNG14), 24 March, 2014

Plenary session at the on-going National
Conference resumed on Monday with robust
debates on the Rules of Procedure; a framework meant to regulate the activities of the Conference and the conduct of delegates during both the plenary and committee sessions.

Presided over by the Conference Chairman,
Honourable Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, GCON, the session opened with a prayer and adoption of Votes of Proceedings while each delegate was mandated to complete certain registration
procedures at the Conference centre.

Based on motions moved and supported by
members, Conference agreed that the Rules of
Procedure should be considered clause by
clause. The motion was moved by Mohammed
Kabiru Jibrin from the Northwest Zone.

Seidu Dansadau, a former senator suggested that
anytime a motion was moved and seconded, the
chairman should thereafter put the question for
immediate decision in order to facilitate
proceedings since members were prone to
speaking on one issue for a long time and
possibly repeating what previous speakers had
said.

He also advised that once an issue has been
debated, decided upon and adopted, it must not
be revisited. His position was supported by
former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong
Victor Attah.

Dr. Osahon Enabulele, president of the Nigerian
Medical Association suggested that a time-frame
be attached to the provision authorizing
President Goodluck Jonathan to appoint a
replacement for any of the officials of the
Conference who might resign from office.

His position was countered by Monsignor Obiora
Ike from Enugu State who said the Rules of
Procedure was purely meant for the Conference
and was not binding on the President and that
it was beyond the powers of the Conference to
compel the President to do anything under its
rules.

With his argument and that of others who made
contributions, the issue was dropped, leaving
the President to make any such appointment at
his discretion.

Ledum Mitee from Rivers State, and Supo Sasore,
SAN, from Lagos State, were of the view that a
section of the draft rules that compels delegates
to obtain authorization from the Conference
Secretariat before staying away from any meeting
or travelling out of the country was not
necessary.

Mitee argued that delegates should only be
made to merely inform or notify the Secretariat
instead of being portrayed as having committed
any offence by being absent.

Sasore said delegates should be assumed to be
responsible enough to appreciate the need to
attend all the sessions; adding that there was
no need to seek and receive authorization to be
absent from any session of the Conference.
Based on a motion moved by former senator,
Daisy Danjuma, the word “offence” was removed
from the section dealing with absence from
meeting and replaced with “it shall be a breach
of these rules….”

Another issue that attracted long debate was
that of quorum. While some people suggested
one third of members, others said 50% of
members must be present at either plenary or
committee meetings before a quorum could be
said to have been formed.

At the end, when the question was put, it was
the position of the majority that one third of
members of the Conference or committees would
form a quorum during each session.

A civil society leader, Dr. Abiola Akiyode,
questioned in a motion, the use of “he” to refer
to both men and women. A heated debate then
followed. Josephine Anene, who described herself as “an elder stateswoman” insisted that the matter be
resolved amicably so that female delegates could
have a sense of belonging. She moved the hall to laughter with a suggestion that the use of “he” should be replaced by “it” to refer to both sexes or at the very best, the word “she” and not “he” should
be used to represent both male and female delegates.

Dansadau drew the attention of the Conference
to the use of “he” both in the 1999 Constitution,
Votes and Proceedings of the National Assembly,
and Judicial pronouncements; and cautioned
that there were sufficient conventions to be
followed on the issue.

When the question was put for a decision, it was
ruled that whenever the word “he” is used in
the Rules of Procedure, it must be followed by
“or she.”

Strong objections and counter objections were
equally raised with regard to the time of sitting;
from 10 am to 2 pm before lunch break and
from 4 pm to 6pm.

Former Governor of Ogun State, Segun Osoba in
a motion, gave reasons for the need to adjust
time of sitting on each day. He cited principally,
the need to give room for lobbying by delegates.
His position was that time for lunch break be
reduced to one hour while sitting on each day
should end by 5 pm. He was not however rigid
about the space of time.

Victor Attah, who supported the motion, said the
“afternoon sessions would be completely empty,”
and suggested that “straight sitting from 10 am
to 4 pm be adopted by the Conference.”

Former Governor of Anambra State,
Chukwuemeka Ezeife, spoke in favour of the
motion, “we should not be rigid on this. I think
after lunch, it is bye-bye. We should consider 9
am to 4 pm, go home, rest and begin the
evening hours.”

Both Senator Mohammed Aliero and Dr. Iyorcha
Ayu however disagreed with the suggestion. Ayu
said one hour was not enough for lunch and that
the time stated in the draft rules of procedure
should be adopted.

He was supported by former President of the
Senate, Adolphus Wabara, who said the time
stated in the draft rules of procedure was in
order adding humorously that “if you want to
eat pounded yam and amala and fall asleep,
goodluck to you.”

The most prolonged debate of the day was
drawn from a motion moved by Mike Ozekhome,
SAN; it was on the determination of questions
proposed during the Conference especially on
controversial issues.

He said while the draft rule of procedure
stipulated that in the absence of a consensus,
75% of delegates must vote for such an issue to
sail through, he moved that Conference should
adopt the two-third majority vote practicable
both in Parliaments and other groups.

Ozekhome was supported by other speakers like
Gani Adams, Bisi Adegbuyi among others.
Auwaalu Yadudu from the Northeast disagreed.
He said the President’s address was explicit on
the unity of the country; and that for decisions
to be adopted and implemented, it must attract
sufficient support of delegates across the country
and that delegates must not accept the
assumption that consensus on critical issues
would be impossible.

An elder statesman, Ayo, Adebanjo from Ogun
State said emphatically, “we have been in this
struggle for too long, we are going to work for a
consensus. This country must remain one. The
things causing contention, we must iron them
out. What we want now is solution to the
future.”

When the Conference resumed after lunch break,
the chairman ruled that further debate on the
issue be taken over to the next sitting when
members would have had sufficient time to
reflect on all sides of the arguments.

On appointment of committees, it was agreed
after a heated debate that each member should
indicate which committees he would want to
serve while election of committees’ leaderships
would be decided by the committees themselves.
Another aspect of the Rules of Procedure not
decided upon on Monday, dealt with whether
individual delegates should speak or each group
should be represented by a spokes person.
The session was adjourned at 6.10 pm for
Tuesday.

Please visit http://www.nigerianationalconference2014.org/ for the latest news and information on the national conference.

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