Report: Conference Proceedings April 15
Proceedings at the on-going National Conference in Abuja took a different turn on Tuesday as the news of the abduction of 100 girls in Borno State reached the delegates.
All the female delegates who attended the session were dressed in black attire as a sign of mourning over what most members of the Conference described as an invasion of Nigeria by agents of destruction.
The school girls, aged between 9 and 12, were allegedly abducted by unknown armed bandits who drove in a convoy of trucks and buses, invaded the school compound, carted away goods from the stores and carried the girls away.
Aisha Mohammed Sani Ismail painted a gory picture of the incident when she stood to condemn in strong terms what has befallen innocent children whose only crime was to agree to be educated.
Various suggestions were made by several individuals on what the Conference should do. For example, Pastor Tunde Bakare, suggested that proceedings at the Conference be stood down as a show of solidarity with the victims of the insurgency.
He said it must not be said of the Conference that while the nation came under siege, delegates were still sitting and talking, showing no concern. His suggestion however was not well received by some members.
Based on political undertones that quickly emerged, Kunle Olajide in his contribution said events of this week must be viewed with serious concern and demanded that politicians should come together for the sake of the nation to salvage the situation.
He said categorically: 'It is a state of war. Politicians must take politics entirely out of this issue. There are external sponsors who must be identified.'
His position was supported by Annkio Briggs who said: 'I speak as a mother, I speak as a woman, I speak as a Nigerian. What is happening in Nigeria happens because of what some people whether inside or outside have decided will happen.'
She said although one part of Nigeria is principally affected by the acts of terror, it was becoming uncertain whether the killings and bombing could still be contained any longer.
Briggs made it clear that it was time for Nigerians to come together and decide on what was best for the country because 'this is no longer about politics, it is about the security of the country.'
Chief Segun Osoba and Ledum Mitee offered what some members believed were concrete suggestions towards practically resolving the insecurity which most delegates attributed to infiltration of the Nigerian borders by people bent on destabilizing the country.
Osoba said Nigeria, at present, is in a state of war; and that gradually the economy and the education system in the northern part of the country were being destroyed in a manner that might be difficult to resuscitate.
The former governor of Ogun State suggested immediate closure of the borders between Nigeria and Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republics as an initial step to curb illegal border crossing.
In addition, he said instead of closing down the Conference, the secretariat should lead a delegation to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and express the position of the Conference to him and government.
Mitee, who supported the two issues raised by Osoba added that at a time like this, dirty political mudslinging and blame-sharing must give way to decent reasoning among political leaders towards finding solutions to the problem.
It was also his position that in taking advantage of the human resources available at the Conference, the issue of security should crics-cross all the committees so that committee members can discuss and make suggestions for the final report.
'This is not the time to grandstand,' he cautioned, 'we may have elders but at a time like this, we need statesmen who should rise up and lead the nation out of this mess. This is no time for politics.'
A female delegate, Fati Ibrahim, said the Conference must look beyond expression of sympathy and the national mourning and take practical steps to ensure that the girls who have been abducted were returned in good condition.
Ramatu Bala Usman raised the question of whether there are no elders in the communities whose citizens have been subjected to suffering and death, adding that as people who are respected by everyone, the elders should be able to identify those behind and those actually perpetrating the ugly development.
She said if it were possible to identify the people behind the dreaded Maitasine sect in the past, if it were possible to identify aggrieved youths of the Niger Delta and brought the situation under control, if it were possible to identity the OPC members in the west, then why can't Boko Haram members be identified?
Retired General Tanko Ayuba from the northwest suggested a complete overhaul of the security system and agreed with the previous speakers that Nigeria's borders with some countries should be closed because they were too porous.
In addition, he said modern surveillance equipment should be acquired and mounted across the closed borders. 'The time for talk is over. It is now time to act,' he said.
Meanwhile, the Conference has announced the establishment of and appointment of membership to 20 Standing Committees that would handle specific issues which members believe are paramount to the existence of Nigeria.
The list of the committees and members were distributed during the plenary on Tuesday (please see also the Conference website: www.nigerianational conference2014.org)
There are committees on: Devolution of Power; Political Restructuring and Forms of Government; National Security; Environment; Politics and Governance; Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reform; Social Sector; Transportation; and Science, Technology and Development.
Others are Committees on: Agriculture; Civil Society, Labour and Sports; Public Service; Political Parties and Electoral Matters; Foreign Policy and Diaspora Matters; Land Tenure and National Boundaries; and Economy, Trade and Investment.
There are also Committees on Energy; Religion; Public Finance and Revenue; and the Committee on Immigration and Related Matters.
It was announced at previous meetings that issues to be discussed by each committee are not limited to those highlighted in the Work Plan which had been previously discussed by delegates and that other matters related to the stated subject matters should also be tackled.
Each delegates was given opportunity to choose three committees he or she would want to serve. From the three, the presiding officers were to decide, based on consideration of equal representation and expertise, which of the committees the delegate fits in.
The leadership of the Conference was also mandated through a resolution included in the National Conference Procedures to appoint the leadership of the Committees.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS