National Conference Ends Debate On President’s Speech
Insecurity, corruption, women's right and the rights of minorities took the centre-stage on Thursday as delegates to the 2014 National Conference rounded off debate and comments on President Goodluck Jonathan's inaugural speech at the Conference.
Also mentioned and debated was the call for the reintroduction of the on-shore and off-shore oil dichotomy which would deprived certain oil producing states of any revenue from oil exploration and exploitation carried out off-shore.
However, Nsongurua Udombana, a professor of international law from Akwa Ibom State, shot down the suggestion on the grounds that no international law as cited by the speakers can dictate to a country what to do within its locality.
He said instead, sections of the 1999 Constitution that vest authority on the central government with regard to the control of natural resources to the exclusion of the states where they are domesticated should be abrogated in the spirit of true federalism.
Udombana stated that the problem of Nigeria was not lack of resources but inability of the leaders to successfully harness these resources for the benefit of the people.
Mrs. Ramatu Bala Usman in her comments said the Conference must ensure that the 35% gender placement in public service and appointments in favour of women be enshrined in the Constitution so as to give it a legal backing.
In addition, she asked for institutionalization of the roles of the spouse of the first citizen, either at the national or state level, whether man or woman, so that if a woman becomes the president of governor, the husband will have a constitutional role to play; and vice versa.
Usman went ahead to demand a policy that would compel any new occupant of public office to ensure completion of projects and implementation of policies started by his predecessor before embarking on a new one.
Maria Waziri from Kebbi state also spoke glowingly about the oneness of Nigeria and why women education should be given a priority by government at all levels.
She said, “The oneness of this nation is absolutely beyond negotiation. I suggest strongly that we must not approach issues with suspicion. We must discuss freely in the overall national interest because Nigeria belongs to all of us.
“I stand for oneness, for togetherness and for a stronger indivisible Nigeria which is at peace with its citizens based on mutual respect and understanding amongst our diverse people, irrespective of tribe, ethnic or religion.
God has blessed Nigeria with great women; intelligent women; patriotic; determined and courageous women. We must give women more opportunities, collaborate with them and tap into their wonderful potentials. To do all these, women must be educated.
“A widow in pains deserves consolation, not humiliation. The wicked act of throwing her out is ungodly, inhuman, outdated and wickedness. I condemn it with all my heart.”
Professor Auwalu Yadudu took the delegates through memory lane on the issue of resource control and revenue allocation, debunking certain claims which he believes to be wrong.
On his expectations, he said, “Conference must draw up a very clear road-map that spells out the necessary legal and institutional frameworks to guide the implementation of its resolutions.
“All Conference resolutions requiring legal and constitutional expressions must be carried out in accordance with the 1999 Constitution and extant statutory provisions.
“Conference must propose draft legislation for enactment and implementation by the National Assembly; policy proposals and options should go to the executive arm.”
Tanko Yakassai expressed disappointment over non-effective implementation of the various laws against corruption and how corruption has been allowed to not only give the country a bad name, but create avenue for emergence of armed violence across the country.
He said, “The fight against corruption has been largely unsuccessful due to the inability of bodies charged with that responsibility to ensure the judicial sanctioning or punishment of suspected offenders.
“This has to an extent been due to the case glut in our judicial system thereby protracting corrupt-related cases.”
Yakassai called for establishment of special courts for corrupt and other related offences; “This will provide the needed impetus to agencies charged with the responsibility of fighting this evil that has defied efforts geared towards eradicating its menace.”
On the issue of true federalism and the return to regionalism, he proposed a reduction in the number of states from the present 36 to 12 adding that as things are now, “admittedly, this is a very difficult task to undertake…”
Mr Achike Udenwa told the Conference that what would help the country in fighting corruption is for leaders to look back at the root cause of corruption and tackle it from there. He mentioned insecurity, social problems and greed as the causes of corruption.
He said public officers steal because they want to create wealth to fall back on after leaving office and be able to pay their bills; they also steal because of social pressure and cited situations where they are made to buy unnecessary traditional titles and honorary degrees from tertiary institutions.
Veteran journalist, Chief Onyeama Ugochukwu, challenged the delegates to discuss and make such recommendations that would create a better future for Nigeria by creating a true federalism out of the existing confusion.
Ugochukwu said Jonathan has given the delegates the challenge of finding something new that would move the country forward and prayed that the conference would not be another effort in futility.
Retired General Anthony Ukpo said he was skeptical about the purpose of the Conference at the beginning but that from what he has seen so far, his new challenge is to work hard and ensure that the result of the Conference would not be put on the shelf.
Former President of the Senate, Adolf Wabara said the problem with Nigeria is traceable to ignorance of existing solutions to such problems; and most importantly, the lack of political will to apply existing laws to solve those problems.
He challenged the delegates to know that the era of Lord Lugard was over and that the baton of leadership and the responsibility to solve Nigeria's problems has been handed over to Nigerians of this generation.
“I want to remind us here that Lord Lugard is not in this hallowed chamber. Lord Lugard built the house we lived in a hundred years ago, now it is our turn to either rebuild the house or to renovate the house. Our fate is strictly in our hands.”
Senator Daisy Danjuma observed that the greatest legacy of the Conference would be to ensure obedience to the rule of law and separation of powers, enthronement of natural justice, equity and good conscience in the polity.
She said the issue of insecurity must be taken seriously because as it is today, investors have been scared away; and even the tourism industry with the capacity to replace oil in revenue yielding is basically dead.
Diette Spiff, a retired military officer and traditional ruler said the concept of the National Youth Service Corps should be extended to include every youth from the age of 18 and should include compulsory military training for such youth whether they are graduates or not.
He drew attention of the Conference to the fact that no constitution is perfect; explaining that every constitution drafted under any military regime is usually done by civilian lawyers; therefore the military must not always be held responsible for any constitution that has flaws.
The former military officer advised Nigerians to live in peace; “we should learn to tolerate each other and live as one big family.”
For Goddy Unwazurike, fiscal federalism, state creation and rotational presidency must form part of the recommendations at the end of the Conference.
He was emphatic that no tribe is greater than the other and as such political power must rotate while every geo-political zone must have equal number of states.
Richard Uche described the President's speech as a patriotic call for Nigerians to address issues that have slowed down the process of development. He called for devolution of power in order to make governance more cost-effective.
The position of Jerseer Tsumba that the killings in the north central region was carried out by Fulani herdsmen drew a denial from Dr. Bello Mohammed who raised a point order to the effect that such assertion was a mere speculation as it lacked proof. His position was upheld.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS