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Conference Committee Drops State Police; Adjourns Decision On Resource Control

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA, April 28, (THEWILL) â€' Arguments upon arguments; motions upon motions is what can best describe the process that led to another adjournment on Monday of deliberation on whether legislation on mining of mineral resources should remain the exclusive right of the Federal Government.

Another crucial issue, shot down by the Committee on Devolution of Power after a lengthened argument, was for the establishment of State Police.

While delegates from the south were favourably disposed to it, those from the north were apprehensive that politicians would subject it to abuse. It died on the floor.

For more than two hours, the debate on mining lingered, as members battled to resolve the impasse, which was basically whether state governments should have a say in mining of natural minerals.

The house was divided along regional lines as a section wanted the status quo as contained in the 1999 Constitution sustained; and others from the other section wanted an insertion that state governments should be involved in the mining industry.

On Thursday last week, the Committee Co-Chairman, Obong Victor Attah, in the midst a heated argument, had advised Committee members to make their written submissions available on Monday stating how Item 39 in the Exclusive List could be amended for state participation in the mining business.

Attah's absence at the Committee sitting on Monday turned the table on the issue. While some delegates insisted that the matter be put to vote in the absence of a consensus, others settled for further negotiation for a consensus.

Retired Inspector General of Police and Co-Chairman of the Committee, Ibrahim Coomasie, who presided, had drawn the attention of the Committee to the fact that the issue was undecided at the close of session on Thursday and should therefore be sorted out immediately.

Retired Lt. General Jeremiah Useni opened discussions on the matter as soon as the session opened on Monday, when he moved a motion that the issue be left the way it is in the Constitution. He received instant support from delegates, particularly those from the north.

However, former Minister, Professor A. B. C. Nwosu, quickly cautioned that Item 39 on the Exclusive List was a contentious issue that could trigger crisis in some parts of the country depending on how it was handled by the Committee.

He said that from the days of Adaka Isaac Boro who launched the first bloody revolution in Nigerian history, till today, the twin issues of who controls mining activities and environmental matters have always been controversial.

Nwosu noted that an amicable consensus could be reached on the issue depending on how it was handled, 'but if we bully our way through on this matter, one way or the other, we may end up continuously promoting militancy in the affected areas.'

Haruna Yerima from Borno State was of the opinion that the issue be put to vote since, according to him, it was clear that reaching a consensus would be impossible.

Buba Galadima informed the Committee that a quorum had been formed and that the matter should be put to vote without further argument as the Committee still had other issues to discuss.

Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, however objected. He cited certain sections of the Standing Rules of the Conference which allow for further consultation on issues that could not be decided on consensus at the first instance.

Professor Eddy Erhagbe said the two seemingly incompatible positions were capable of tearing the meeting apart and suggested an amendment which he believed could satisfy the two sides; by adding the clause 'provided that government of the state where the mining activities take place is involved.'

Although other arguments followed immediately, both Nwosu and Sanusi Haruna suggested that the amendment proposed by Erhagbe be looked into and possibly adopted in the interest of peace.

Bashir Dalhatu stoutly opposed suggestions by Chief Dozie Ikedife and Professor Nsongurua Udombana that the matter be stood down until written submissions agreed upon last Thursday be made available for amicable resolution of the argument.

Dalhatu argued that submission of written positions by members would only reflect the trend of arguments that had been heard already, adding, 'We can adjourn for 15 minutes for consultation, but we have to vote.'

Junaid Mohammed supported the position with a declaration that the matter must not be returned to the plenary undecided. He insisted on a vote being taken immediately.

A suggestion by former Deputy President of the Senate, Ibrahim Mantu, that there was need for adjournment in view of the rising tempers, was supported by Akintola.

However, just as Akintola finished talking, Useni, who moved the initial motion, repeated his motion and insisted on a vote being taken.

Shortly after another support by Chief Ayo Adebanjo to Mantu's suggestion, the co-chairman ruled in favour of adjournment till Tuesday to enable members submit their positions in writing for a consensus.

When the issue of State Police came up for debate, the same division witnessed in the previous debate surfaced as delegates tackled each other.

Udombana told the Committee that if the issue of devolution of power must be a reality, then there was no replacement to State Police, adding that the issue of abuse would be taken care of by laws.

Dalhatu was emphatic that Nigeria is not yet ready for State Police as the level of abuse by politicians would be too high, adding, 'I don't think we are yet ready in this country for State Police.'

Adebanjo and Tony Adefuye were of the view that with the establishment of State Police, most of the crisis that have rocked the country would always be chased away at the roots.

According to Adebanjo, the issue of Nigerian factor should not be brought into every discussion because, 'if we have all agreed on going federal, why should we disagree on issues associated with federalism. We should not concentrate police power at the federal level only, it is un-federalism.'

It was his view that the issue of Boko Haram would have been dealt with at the roots if Nigeria operated a state police system like other countries of the world and pleaded that in the interest of Nigeria, the constitution and federalism, State Police should be placed on the Concurrent List.

Akintola informed the Committee that the issue of State Police should not be compelling on individual states; and that any state that desires it should be allowed to adopt it because the Conference cannot be talking about devolution of power while it throws away the ingredients that support devolution of power.

Magaji Dambatta in his contribution said introduction of State Police would amount to legalizing intimidation of political opponents by sitting governors; adding that 'our environment is not yet ripe enough for State Police.'

After another contribution by a retired police officer, Farouk Usman, the matter was put to vote and with a majority voice, it was retained in the Exclusive List.

However, a few items were moved from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List on Monday. They included public holidays; railways and essential commodities while a new item, Information and Communication Technology, introduced by Udombana, was added to the Exclusive List.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian military on Monday explained what some see as maladministration in the military. It followed the submission by the chairman of the National Security Sub-Committee on Defence Infrastructure, retired Brig.Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali in that direction.

Col G. O. Anyamelechi, who represented the Chief of Defence Staff, said that the total subordination of the military to the civil authority was never in doubt and that there was nothing to the allegation of existing friction between the Service Chiefs and the Minister of Defence.

He said promotions in the military were guided by the provisions of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers and Men; and that for a senior officer to be eligible for promotion, he must satisfy certain conditions.

Anyamelechi informed the delegates that while the issue of Federal Character is adhered to at point of entry to the military, as commissioned officers grow in rank, they are required to scale various hurdles in order to be eligible for promotion.

This, he said, meant that as officers keep going up, the issue of Federal Character becomes less significant while emphasis shifts to merits and that this accounted to what may seem like an uneven representation at the top amongst the six geo-political zones.

On the alleged failure of counter-terrorism measures adopted by the armed forces, he said the allegation was regrettable, 'especially coming from a source that is in a better position to appreciate the complexity of asymmetric warfare.'

Anyemelechi said allegations of maladministration in the armed forces could have far-reaching implications on the general administration of the armed forces and by extension, national security, particularly as no specifics were given to substantiate the allegation.