Proposals to hold a National Conference next month were yesterday in danger of derailing following disagreements between the two houses of the National Assembly over funding for the conference.
The disagreements between the two chambers came as eminent statesman, Professor Ben Nwabueze took the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue/Conference, Senator Femi Okurounmu, to task on the panel’s report, saying it was obvious that he, Okurounmu had neither read it nor understood it.
Professor Nwabueze’s comment came as a member of the Okurounmu panel, Mr. Solomon Asemota, SAN, dismissed the majority report as preconceived and deliberately skewed to promote interests contrary to the genuine interests of Nigerians.
Asemota’s submissions were contained in a letter made available to The Patriots, a group of elder-statesmen.
Disagreements between the two chambers of the National Assembly came in separate comments by the presumptive Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila and Senate spokesman, Senator Enyinnanya Abaribe.
Gbajabiamila said the new All Progressives Congress, APC, leadership in the House would cut off funding for the conference and flayed the administration’s intentions on the national conference, saying it was meant to serve the interest of one party or one man as against the general interest of Nigerians.
“Some of us in our party have asked for what appellation you want to give: National Dialogue, Sovereign National Dialogue. I think it is the normal thing that we need in this country. But because we asked for it, the timing also has to work.
“How do you organise a national dialogue with an election, with the primaries that are coming within the year? How do you do two major events that also have the capacity of breaking up the country? We said that it should be done immediately after an election so that nobody has the stake that will manipulate the election.
“You don’t do it towards the end of your tenure. Something is not quite right about that picture. So, yes, we support the national dialogue but we don’t support the national dialogue at this time. And I heard that they are asking for, I cannot remember, N11 billion or something like that. For a country that cannot pay salaries of civil servants, cannot pay ASUU, cannot pay workers left, right and centre, yet you are asking to appropriate N11 billion for a national dialogue that the timing is not right? This is where I think the legislature must come in.”