North, South Delegates Bicker Over Final Report


By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.
Delegates to the National Conference are heading for a final show of wit as conference push to take final decisions on its report Thursday.

At its resumed sitting in Abuja, today, there seems to be no end to the bickering along north-south divides on the issue of what the outcome the over 4-months national dialogue should be.

Delegates from the north under the auspices of Northern Delegate Forum had on Tuesday accused the conference secretariat of drafting a new constitution, alleging that it was a ploy to create a third term opportunity to currently serving elected official who otherwise are stature-barred from re-contesting.

The Northern delegates rejected the draft new constitution prepared by the confab secretariat, saying it was part of an alleged plot to give some elected public officers the legitimacy to stand for a third term.

However, some delegates from the south and middle belt on today kicked against the allegation, insisting that there was nothing wrong with new constitution and that the work done by the conference would only bring about a new Nigeria.

The “new draft constitution” was circulated to delegates on Monday, and they were expected to cross-check the contents to be should that it was the outcome of their deliberations which they were to adopt Wednesday.

However, Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, seeing that the mood of the delegates and the atmosphere was tensed, adjourned the sitting till Thursday for the debate.

Briefing newsmen after the plenary session, delegates from the south led by Mr. Edwin Clark said there is no issue in the circulated documents that is controversial, faulting the suggestions that there is confusion in the document circulated by the secretariat.

Faulting the northern delegates’ position, Clark said there is nothing wrong if the final report is called new constitution, arguing that if the resolution is implementing by the government, there is going to be new Nigeria.

He described the position of the Northern delegates as unfortunate.

According to Clark, various issue in the report were debated by the Conference and all the resolutions in the report were agreed on by all delegates in the conference.

“I can assure you, if the resolutions in this report are implemented by the government, a news Nigeria has been birth. What I learnt within four months of this conference is fantastic, it was unfortunate that some delegates address press conference on new constitution.”

He said by tomorrow the conference is going to adopt the report and that the conference is going to end by tomorrow.

Also speaking at the briefing, another delegate from the south, Mr. Olu Falae, said allegation by delegates from the 19 northern states, under the aegis of Northern Delegates Forum, accusing confab leadership of harbouring a third term agenda for President Goodluck Jonathan and other present political office holders with the introduction of a purported new constitution for Nigeria is false.

Falae explained that six years single tenure is not in the report, saying that what the Northern delegates are trying to do is to mislead the public.

He said the content of the document tagged ‘new draft constitution’ is not different from the resolution of the Conference.

Similarly, Senator Ike Nwachukwu from south east, added that the report should be placed in the public domain so Nigerians will understand what the Confab has done so far.

Notable among delegates present at the briefing were, Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Olu Falae, General Ike Nwachukwu, rtd, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Anko Briggs, Yinka Odumakin, Senator Femi Okunronmu and others.

At its Tuesday briefing, the northern delegates forum argued that the document was a plot to leverage on a court ruling in 2003 that said governors who had served during the aborted third republic were eligible to seek another term in 2003 elections since they were serving under a different constitution.

The judgment was delivered in a case involving the then-governors of Kogi, Yobe, Taraba and Ogun states, who had earlier served as civilian governors in 1992-93.

The judgement affirmed the right of Abubakar Audu, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Jolly Nyame and Segun Osoba to run again for election as governors for which was cynically dubbed as third tenures in 2003.

The Northern delegates argued yesterday that if the confab draft were to be approved, serving elected office holders who are ineligible to seek another term in 2015 elections under the 1999 constitution would then be eligible under the new constitution.

“Adopting a new constitution is therefore calculated to enable incumbent elective office holders who are statue-barred from going for third term at both federal and state levels, to run for offices again under the guise of running under a new constitution,” said co-chairman of the forum, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, who read a text on behalf of the Northern delegates.