By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.
The National Conference on Wednesday adjourned its sitting following the news of the death of Maryamu, the wife of the Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi.
Maryamu, aged 70, died at the National Hospital in Abuja at about 2 am on Wednesday and has already been buried at the Gudu Muslim Cemetery, Abuja, in line with Islamic rites.
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 unanimously agreed to the proposal for adjournment expressed shock at the death and the fact that Conference Chairman could still preside over proceedings until the last day of sitting while the wife was in the hospital.
The Deputy Chairman 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.
Akinyemi 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 the wife was lying ill in the hospital.
Vice President Namadi Sambo, three former Chief Justices of the Federation – Mohammed Uwais, Alfa Belgore and Daihu Mudsdapher; former President Court of Appeal, Justice Mamman Nasir; and former Speaker of the House of Representative, Ghali Umar N’abba were among top dignitaries at the Central Mosque in Abuja where prayers were said for the repose of the soul of the late Maryamu, on Wednesday morning.
Others include former governors of Old Borno State, Alhaji Mohammed Goni; Kebbi, Alhaji Mohammed Adamu Aliero; Niger, Brigadier General Lawan Gwadabe (rtd); Akwa Ibom, Obong Victor Attah and Bayelsa State, Chief Diepriye Alamieyeseigha. Former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie; former Secretary to Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae and former Security Boss, Chief Albert Horsfall also paid their last respects to the departed Maryamu.
Former Minsters Professor Ihechukwu Madubuike, Professor Jubril Aminu and Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed, as well as the Administrator of the National Judicial Institute, Retired Justice Umaru Eri were also in attendance alongside the Emir of Suleija, Alhaji Auwaal Ibrahim and the Emir of Dutse, Alhaji Nuhu Mohammed Sanusi.
Before the adjournment on Wednesday, delegates had earlier in the week agreed not to have plenary session on Thursday May 29 which has been declared a public holiday by the Federal Government in celebration of Democracy Day.
It was agreed that proceedings at the plenary will resume on Monday June 2 with deliberation on more reports of committees and adoption of recommendations contained in the reports.
Before the immediate adjournment of sitting on Wednesday, 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 on Wednesday 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 should be empowered to handle such issues, others believed the new commission would serve useful purposes.
The committee envisaged the RECOM to 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 and investigate and expose cases of religious discrimination and violation.
The body was 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 watch dog 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.
Also put in abeyance was the recommendation by the Committee on Religion for the scrapping of the Pilgrims Welfare Board or its movement to the Foreign Affairs Ministry following the adoption of the recommendation for non-sponsorship of pilgrimages by government at any level.
Some of the delegates were of the view that scrapping the welfare body would hinder preparation for pilgrimages while others believed retaining the board would be counter-productive since government’s non-involvement in pilgrimages had already been resolved and adopted.