As the National Conference awaits its August 4 resumption date to consolidate and reconcile its report, there are alleged clandestine moves by some northern delegates to stall the report of the conference when it is eventually submitted to the National Assembly.
The conference was abruptly adjourned till August 4 due to the inability of the delegates to reach a consensus on resource control, stabilisation fund for the development of solid minerals and rehabilitation of places experiencing violence, especially in the North-east region.
As part of the northern delegates’ effort to stall the conference report, a meeting under the leadership of a past female senator from Niger State, who is also a delegate to the conference, Khairat Gwadabe, took place with some northern delegates and members of the National Assembly.
The meeting, it was learnt, lasted well into the early hours of Saturday. The grouse of the northern delegates is over resolutions of the conference on state police, local government autonomy and states as federating units among others.
According to a source, the part of the strategies adopted by the northern delegates who attended the meeting was to aggressively pursue enlistment of support of members of the North-west, North-east and North-central caucuses in the National Assembly in an effort to make sure the report, when brought to the National Assembly for ratification, is ‘killed’.
The sponsors of the move plan to use the opportunity of the annual recess of the National Assembly to lobby both senators and members of the House of representatives from the north to ensure that the report is scuttled.
The National Assembly began a two-month annual recess last Thursday. The conference, in consideration of the report of its 20 committees, had a smooth sail on 19 reports but the failure on the issues of local government administration, state police and derivation stalled the continued presentation of the reports.
Northern delegates bickered over the desirability of the recommendation, which was passed through a voice vote to have local government administration transferred from the exclusive legislative list to the residual list.
They also expressed misgiving over the resolution, which also passed through a majority voice vote, to allow for the establishment of state police “for states that want it.”
Some of them also expressed concerns over the resolution to create additional 18 states, with a special one for the South-east zone. As the conference rose, most of them were heard vowing to ‘fight’ to ensure the report does not see the light of day.
The most contested report was that from the Committee on Devolution of Powers co-chaired by Obong Victor Attah, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, and Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, a leader of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and former Inspector General of Police.
Though most items on the report were adopted by plenary, the issue of derivation became contentious despite the committee recommendation that the status quo be maintained with a call for the creation of a fund to address the destruction caused by insurgency in the country.
To resolve the matter however, the leadership of the conference allowed ample time for mediation by leaders of the six geopolitical zones leading to an agreement that the derivation benchmark be raised to “not less than 18 per cent,” while the fund for insurgency destructions, reconstruction was pegged at five per cent with the proviso that the fund be made open to every state of the federation where terrorists have caused destructions, beginning with the North-east region.
The recommendation nevertheless drew the ire of North-central and North-west delegates who insisted that specific mention be made that the fund is exclusively for the three northern geopolitical zones, while South-east and South-west delegates asked that it be expanded to take care of every state of the country where terrorism had occurred.
Still, some delegates, especially representatives of civil society organisations, called for the increase of the National Intervention Fund, which is currently at 1.5 per cent, as captured in the constitution, to five per cent to address the problem of reconstruction.
Disagreements generated by these issues left the Justice Idris Kutigi-led conference to refer the matter to the federal government for resolution, after several efforts at finding a middle ground acceptable to all, failed.
Northern delegates, who became aggrieved with some resolutions reached by the conference, had also moved to get the leadership to jettison the decisions as ground for allowing 18 per cent derivation, state police and local government migration to states.
To achieve their goal, the delegates, operating under the umbrella of Northern Delegates Forum (NDF), it was learnt, had sent emissaries to Justice Kutigi warning him against allowing some of the decisions to see the light of day.
They also attempted to blackmail Deputy Chairman of the conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, towards back-stepping on his job, by linking him with moves to smuggle a prepared constitution for endorsement by delegates.
Specifically, the NDF accused Akinyemi of inducing delegates to support the writing of a new constitution from the conference, an allegation that was effectively denied and rebuffed by the conference leadership.
The new move is seen as part of a wider campaign against the conference resolutions and its leadership which had seen some northern delegates describing it as a failure.
Efforts to reach Senator Gwadabe failed as several calls put through could not be connected to her.