Confab: The N7 Billion Waste

Confab: The N7 Billion Waste

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 2:03 pm

Ayorinde Oluokun –

Urbane, tactful and of a good reputation, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi was considered a perfect choice when he was picked by President Goodluck Jonathan as the Deputy National Chairman of the National Conference. And since the exercise took off over three months ago, the former minister of Foreign Affairs has put these qualities to use. The former minister has helped Justice Idris Kutigi, the chairman of the Conference, navigate of potential landmine-field of disrupting, forceful expression of group, ethnic and regional views and interests among the nearly 500 delegates.

But in as much as he has helped the exercise stay on course, Professor Bolaji himself was himself thrust into the eye of the storm last week with a newspaper report that he is part of the plot to smuggle in a new constitution purportedly to be adopted as the report of the yet-to-be-concluded conference. An Abuja-based newspaper had on Sunda reported that the leadership of the national conference has been meeting and lobbying influential delegates across the six geo-political zones to convince them to buy into the new constitution. As reported, the so-called new constitution made far-reaching recommendations on some issues which have remained not only very contentious, but have always divided delegates along ethnic and regional lines when they come up for discussion. They include resource control, revenue allocation, state police and local government administration.

Kutigi (right) and Akinyemi

Kutigi (right) and Akinyemi

While most delegates from the South have canvassed for a change in constitutional provision on most of the issues, representatives of the North at the conference have canvassed for the retention of the status quo on the items. Indeed, the northern delegates during the plenaries and committee stage of the conference had ensured that there were no significant changes in the constitutional provisions related to the issues in spite of the best efforts of their southern counterparts.

But the new constitution being pushed by the conference, allegedly at the behest of President Jonathan, will result in far-reaching changes in the provisions of the 1999 Constitution on the issues. Some of such recommendations in the alleged new constitution include abolition of local government as a tier of government and consequently, stoppage of allocation to the local governments, increase in amount paid as derivation benefits to the oil producing states, from 13 to 50 per cent, creation of an additional state for the South-East and provision of a six-year single term for the president. Thus, it was not a surprise to many when the delegates from the North raised hell on resumption of the conference last Monday. For them, the new constitution is nothing more than an attempt by their southern counterparts to smuggle in from the back door what they have not been able to obtain from the front door. “We have not come here also to smuggle in an alleged document on the basis of certain geopolitical zones. So, this conference shouldn’t be part of any hidden agenda,” said Isaq Modibbo Kawu, a delegate from the media who asked Professor Akinyemi to respond to charges that he was one of three persons who have been canvassing support for the new constitution.

But Akinyemi did not dispute the fact that he has been trying to reach out to some delegates from the North when he was given the floor to defend himself. The Deputy Chairman of the National Conference however said his action was motivated by the desire to reach a consensus on some potentially divisive issues before they come up for discussion on the floor. He identified the issue as the desire of some delegates to codify the resolutions of the conference into a new constitution and others who are opposed to the move. “We have an issue coming up, which is a discussion on modalities for implementing decisions of the conference. So, I approached those who said they were here to write a new constitution and I asked them, ‘What exactly do you mean by writing a new constitution?’ They explained… from talking to the people who are talking about a new constitution, I said to the northern delegation, ‘If people move amendments which we have approved, and they say in view of the fact that they have moved this amendment to the 1999 Constitution they now have a new constitution, I said is that a big issue for us to have a big conflict over?’” said Akinyemi. “All I did was to ensure that both sides start talking to each other before we have a big conflict on the floor…that is all, that is all,” the former minister concluded in his defence.

Apart from the former minister, the other person mentioned as being involved in the attempt to ram the new constitution down the throats of the delegates is Chief Raymond Dokpesi, the chairman of DAAR Communications, who has been holding meetings with selected delegates on the platform of National Consensus Bridge Building Group. But like Akinyemi, the media baron explained that his efforts are geared toward building consensus among delegates ahead of the discussion of the last batch of committee reports. He added that what was described as a new constitution was nothing more than a working document which embedded reports of the committees on politics and governance, electoral matters, restructuring and devolution of powers. Three delegates selected from each of the six geopolitical zones took part in the compilation of the working document under the National Consensus Group.

“About five [issues] were contained in there and any person that is honest will discover that all the recommendations of the committee were embedded in that report. Also embedded in that report are some of the arguments or points that people have raised that they want discussed and it is tabulated in there,” said Dokpesi. He added that a leading northern delegate, Professor Awalu Yadudu, came last Tuesday to dissociate the region from the document, though 15 out of the 18 delegates that were present at the meeting, including those from the North, had reached unanimous decisions on the different issues before they were tabulated and produced as a document.
Dokpesi added that Professor Yadudu had, after the adjournment of the conference the week before, presented him a letter in which he said that the northern delegates were withdrawing from the group. The media proprietor said Yadudu told him that the northern group was withdrawing because they believed that decisions synthesised in the working document were results of consultations with some groups and that they were only invited to come in and rubber stamp the decisions that had been taken. “There was nothing secret in that document and I made the copies available to the leadership of all the six geopolitical zones to state very clearly, this is a working document,” said Dokpesi who, however, said he anticipated the controversy since Yadudu had earlier confronted him that the conference leadership had made a decision on the constitution and that the working document was the constitution.

Mutual Suspicion, Distrust and Fear of Hidden Agenda

But the confusion over the working document is reflective of the mutual suspicion, distrust and North/South divide that have characterised the work of the National Conference even since the President mooted the idea last year. The main opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, had opposed the convocation of the conference over suspicion that it may be a backdoor to tenure elongation for President Jonathan. The party had subsequently refused to take up its two slots at the conference.

And true to that suspicion, at least two delegates had mooted the idea of extension of tenure for the President at the conference. In a document he circulated to delegates last Monday, Robert Audu, a delegate from Kogi State, had argued for extension of tenure for President Jonathan, his deputy, Namadi Sambo, and all the first term governors through the amendment of 1999 Constitution to allow them a six- or seven-year single term immediately. Audu, a former permanent secretary and one of the six representatives of the retired civil servants at the conference, said in the document that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should shift the coming general elections for the concerned public officials to 2017 or 2018, while elections to fill vacancies of second-term governors/deputy governors should hold in 2015 as originally scheduled. Okon Osung, a delegate from the South-South zone, had about two months ago also called for the postponement of the 2015 elections by about 18 months while retaining the democratic institutions at all levels of governance. But delegates at the conference have so far refused to be swayed along the line of tenure elongation as much as the purveyors have tried.

On the kick-off of the exercise, different groups also complained about their non- or inadequate representation at the conference. The apex body for Islamic organisations in the North, the Jama’atul Nasril Islam, last week also accused the President of plotting a hidden agenda with the convocation of the National Conference. In a press conference in Kaduna, Khalid Aliyu, JNI’s secretary-general, expressed regrets that the President still went ahead to convene the conference in spite of what he described as the preponderance of opinion against it.

Aliyu said the system adopted to choose delegates for the exercise was unfair to Muslims. According to him, 62 per cent of the delegates to the conference are Christians while the remaining percentage is shared by Muslims and adherents of other religions. Also, leading politicians and bureaucrats from the North argued that the conference, which is holding at a time the region was beset with a lot of challenges, was “deliberately designed to cause havoc to northern unity and deepen its problems” and make it “easier for President Jonathan to exploit the fallout for his re-election campaign”. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, a former permanent secretary who said this summit held in Kano just before the beginning of the conference, argued that the exercise will not find solutions to the different challenges confronting the region. But the greater fear of the North is that the conference may be a backdoor arrangement to further alter the revenue allocation formula in favour of the South. Key northern leaders, including governors had, ahead of the conference argued that the South-South, which is derisively dismissed as less in landmass than Niger State, is taking too much of the nation’s revenue with the 13 per cent derivation. This, according to them has resulted in wide disparity in incomes between oil producing states and non oil producing states to the detriment of the Northern region which, according to them, consists of about 70 per cent of Nigeria’s land mass.

They have also called for a review of the onshore/offshore dichotomy in the calculation of revenues accruing to the littoral states. At a seminar in Sokoto, the Arewa Consultative Forum, a leading northern socio-political group, had in a presentation argued that it did not oppose derivation that rewards efforts and compensates for environmental degradation of the oil producing areas, but inclusion of proceeds from offshore exploration in the calculation for derivation. He argued that proceeds from offshore should not be included in the calculation for derivation paid to the oil producing states. In contrast to this position, the southern delegates had argued that the conference would not be worth the billions of naira spent to organise it if it did not address issues like the structure of government – presidential or parliamentary, fiscal federalism, devolution of power, resource control, citizenship right, security of life and property, review of revenue allocation as a percentage of derivation, the establishment of regional police force as a complement to federal police, and limitation of immunity for elected government officials to civil cases only.

The South-South region has never hidden the fact that top among the issues it will canvass for at the National Conference is radical reordering of the amount paid to its oil producing states as derivation from the current level of 13 per cent to at least, 50 per cent. Indeed, the region said it will canvass for the constitution to be amended to read that a state on whose territory oil (or other natural resources) are extracted or found be entitled to not less 50 per cent of the entire proceeds from the exploration and exploitation.

Thus, each of the regions came with their positions on the various issues ingrained in their minds and determined to have their way at the conference. In anticipation of this, the President had in the address he delivered during his inauguration of the conference harped on the need to for the 492 delegates not to allow ethnic and religious sentiments to derail the exercise. The President told the delegates not to give in to such divisions but pursue ‘Nigeria Agenda’. But this did not prevent the serious contentions over the adoption of 70 per cent or 2/3 of delegates, which not only divided delegates along regional lines but nearly derailed the conference in its first week of sitting. The division was also carried into the committee stage, with many of the committees unable to agree on critical issues as delegates swould not shift from the fixed ideas they had come to the conference with. At the end, most of the committees came up with reports that were grudgingly agreed to by members.

A Lost Battle for Resource Control?

Unarguably, the most contentious of the committees is that on Devolution of Power, which addressed the issue of resource control and devolution of power to the states. And one of such committees whose work will certainly attract interests of is the Committee on Devolution of power, considered to be one of the most critical among the 20 committees. The committee had grabbed headlines in the course of its work as a result of the North-South divide among members during debates which sometimes degenerated to verbal insults.

Members of the committee, which has former governor Obong Victor Attah and Ibrahim Coomasie, former Inspector-General of Police, as chairmen barely avoided exchanging blows as tempers flared during debates on issues of resource control, fiscal federalism and devolution of powers. While the southern delegates advocated a radical restructuring of the constitutional provision that will give more responsibilities to the states in the three areas, their northern counterparts not only wanted to maintain the status quo, but were unabashedly interested in rolling back some of the gains that have been made in the area of resource control by the oil producing areas of the country. Northern delegates who are members of the committee had argued for either a reduction or at best, retention of 13 per cent being paid to oil producing states as derivation while members from the South, particularly those from the South-South geo-political zone, wanted an increment to 50 per cent. Delegates from the North had also argued that the onshore-offshore oil dichotomy be reintroduced in states were minerals are located off the coasts.

Members of the committee finally reached what could at best be termed “a convenient consensus” when they agreed to retain the 13 per cent derivation principle for every mineral producing area, while also affirming that any upward review can only be done after amendment of Section 44(3) of the Constitution. “While the issue of resource control attracted passionate arguments from a section of the delegates and an equally passionate opposition from others, it was finally resolved that with the amendment of Item 39 of the Exclusive Legislative List, certain aspects of resource control have been taken care of,” said Attah.

The committee had also proposed an amendment stating that: “In the mining of the natural minerals in all the states of the federation, while the rights of licensing remains that of the Federal Government with the National Assembly as the legislative body, such mining would be carried out with the active involvement of the states where the mineral resources are found.”

While trying to justify the deal, Attah told journalists that the amendment empowers every part of the country to develop and exploit its resources in accordance with Federal Government licensing and use the resources to develop the people. He added that if approved, the amendment will enable every state of the federation to benefit from the derivation principle, instead of the present widespread belief that derivation benefits are meant for the oil-producing states only. He added with the arrangement, every part of Nigeria will also support upward review of the percentages of funds being paid as derivation because they also stand to benefit. The committee also recommended the establishment of a solid mineral development fund to be sourced from the monthly remittance of 4.5 per cent Federal Government’s revenue dedicated for the purpose of development.

The committee has also recommended the establishment of a National Wealth Fund; an equivalent of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, creation of an office of the Accountant-General of the Federation which would be different from the existing Accountant-General of the Federal Government, among others. But groups and individuals from the South-South described the deal agreed to by the delegates on the issue of resource control as unacceptable.
Indeed, Ankio Briggs, a South-South member of the committee, had tried to submit a minority report that would reflect the views of the region on the discussion without success. The leadership of the conference had, in anticipation of the protests that may characterise the debate on the repor,t slated it among the last to be considered by the delegates.

Hits and Misses

But last Thursday’s adoption of the report of the committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government, considered to be one of the controversial reports, after so many fireworks indicated that delegates were ready to reach amicable settlement in the spirit of give-and-take when necessary. The conference adopted a recommendation of the committee that 18 new states should be created in the country. The conference specifically agreed that in the spirit of reconciliation, equity and justice, an additional state should be created for the South-East zone, which currently has only five states. This would bring the number of states in Nigeria to 54 states, with nine states in each of the six zones.

In the same vein, the conference accepted the recommendation for the rotation of the presidency between the North and South and among the six geo-political zones while the governorship seat should be rotated among the senatorial districts in each state. The support for the creation of new states was with a caveat that any new state to be created should be economically viable or potentially viable and should have human, natural and material resources. It also resolved that that a new state should have minimum population of one million persons.

The conference however rejected a single term of six years and a unicameral legislature for the country. It also adopted the recommendation of the committee that each state should have its own constution. Femi Falana, a Civil Society Organisations delegate who opposed the adoption for the creation of 18 new states, argued that it negates the argument that the cost of governance in the country should be drastically reduced. The conference also rejected an amendment that the geo-political zones should control their resource and remit percentage to the Federal Government, and removal of the local government from the constitution. So far, the conference has, after the debates of the reports of the various committees, come up with recommendations that many Nigerians believe can help address some of the key challenges facing the country and enhance the nation’s federal status. Some of the recommendations are however considered unnecessary and a distraction from the Nigerian federal system.

One of such recommendations was the approval of a multi-level policing system which will allow states to establish their own police force following the adoption of the report of the committee on National Security, headed by a former Inspector-General of Police, Gambo Jimeta. The delegates had, based on unanimous voice vote approved the establishment, funding and operation of state and community police based on state laws. Many Nigerians had argued that states be allowed to establish their own police to enable them to truly be in charge of security in their states, especially as the Constitution also recognised the governors as the chief operating officers of their domains. Also, the conference recommended that federal police officers, from deputy superintendent to the least rank, should be indigenes of the state they are deployed to.

The conference also adopted recommendation for the establishment of a National Border Patrol Force under the Ministry of Defence. It also adopted the recommendation to limit the number of vehicles on government convoys and to empower the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, to set speed limits for convoys and the creation of a Security and Intelligence Services Oversight Commission, re-organisation of the Defence Industries Company of Nigeria and creation of a Military Industrial Complex in the country. However, the conference rejected the recommendation that the Nigerian Army should no longer be drafted for electoral duties while it also rejected the recommendation that the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, and the Nigeria Custom Service should be represented in the States Security Council. The conference adopted the recommendation that retired military personnel be trained and engaged in the fight against Boko Haram and a recommendation for a life insurance for all armed security personnel in the country.

The conference adopted the recommendation that the office of the Chief of Defence Staff be incorporated in the Nigeria Constitution and that the Federal Government should compensate communities destroyed during internal security crises. Also, after the debate and consideration of report of the committee on Political Parties and Electoral Matters, headed by the duo of Senators Iyorchia Ayu and Ken Nnamani, both former presidents of the Senate, the conference had recommended that State Independent Electoral Commission should be scrapped. The conference said it reached this decision because the state electoral commissions have operated more or less as tools for manipulation of elections into local government councils by governors. The conference subsequently resolved that functions of state electoral commissions be transferred to the INEC.

Analysts have argued that this recommendation is against the country’s federal system as the delegates should have instead suggested ways of strengthening the electoral bodies. However, the recommendation for the review of the Electoral Act to further strengthen INEC’s capacity to effectively monitor party conventions and stipulation of minimum academic qualification for candidates seeking elective positions were well received by Nigerians.
The conference had recommended that for the Presidential, Governorship and National Assembly candidates, first degree or its equivalent should be the mandatory qualification while candidates seeking to contest for state Houses of Assembly and Local Government Chairmanship elections are also expected to posses a first degree certificate or its equivalent while Secondary School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent was set as the minimum academic qualification for candidates seeking election as local government councilors. Also, the recommendation for the establishment of a Political Parties Regulation and Electoral Offences Commission has been generally hailed by Nigerians.

As recommended by the conference, the commission would have powers to investigate all electoral frauds and related offences; identify, trace and prosecute political thuggery and other electoral offences as well as monitor the organisation and operations of political parties, including their finances. It also resolved that appeals from judgments in pre-election matters to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court should be filed within 21 days from the date the judgment of the lower court is delivered, while it also wants the Evidence Act to be amended to shift the burden of proof in election matters to INEC. Elected officials will not be sworn in until all litigations on the elections are concluded while any candidate adjudged by the courts to have been fraudulent in the electoral process should not only be barred from subsequent elections but be disqualified from vying for any elective office or holding any government position for ten years.

It also recommended that any person removed from office, based on the decision of the court on fraudulent election, must lose all privileges attached to that office. Also, if a candidate is disqualified by the court for not meeting the required qualification for contesting an election, or in a situation where such a person is elected and the court orders him to vacate the office, the candidate with the second highest number of votes should be declared winner. This recommendation, delegates argued, is designed to avoid waste of public funds to repeat elections consequent upon removal of the disqualified candidate. Conference also accepted the committee’s recommendation that any elected officials, executive or legislative, who engages in cross-carpeting, regardless of the reasons for such, shall automatically forfeit his or her seat. This provision, it said, shall not relate to cases where political parties merge to become a mega party. In such a case, conference agreed, elected officials should have a choice to freely choose any political party they want to belong.

Also, elected officers whose political parties, on whose platform they won election, later merged with other political parties after the elections, the conference recommended, should be allowed to retain their seats. The conference also accepted recommendation for the reservation of a defined quota for women and people living with disability in party hierarchy, although it rejected a suggestion a 15 per cent slot be reserved for persons living with disabilities among others. Also, the recommendation of the conference that electronic voting system should be introduced in the country after the 2015 general elections and that special mandatory provision should be made to compel INEC to electronically transmit results from all the wards upon conclusion of the counting process and that election results should be pasted at all ward levels, is also believed to be capable of enhancing the credibility and transparency of the Nigerian electoral process. Also, the committee’s recommendation that government houses, cars and other facilities and resources should not be used for the partisan interests of any political party will reduce the present situation where office holders deploy public resources such as presidential jets for elections to the disadvantage of their opponents.

In the same vein, after a lot of arguments, delegates settled the initial fierce oppositions that greeted the recommendation by the conference’s Public Finance and Revenue committee on removal of subsidy on petroleum products. This was after the delegates agreed that the retention of subsidy has become a major drain on the nation’s lean resources which cannot be left to continue indefinitely. But while they noted that the subsidy regime has been fraught with massive corruption and may not necessarily be to the advantage of the poor masses as often argued, they said immediate removal of subsidy without requisite mitigating infrastructure was bound to have a spiral effect that may see prices of essential commodities rising, with attendant effect on the poor masses. Delegates agreed that removal of subsidy on petroleum products within the next three years should be preceded by building of new refineries and repair of existing ones so that they can operate at full capacity. It was therefore resolved that private sector investors should be granted licences to build new refineries and should within a period of three years, build such refineries or automatically forfeit such licences to enable other participants who are ready and willing to build such refineries to do so.

Also, the recommendation of the conference that two Accountant-Generals – one for the Federation and another for the Federal Government – be appointed henceforth will be exciting for those that have argued for the same initiative as a way of infusing greater transparency into the national treasury. The committee also recommended, among others, the placement of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, on first-line charge to enhance the independence of the body while government agencies responsible for revenue generation and collection must comply with Section 162(3) of the 1999 Constitution, which mandates them to remit gross revenue to the Federation Account and resort to normal budget process of obtaining budget approval from the National Assembly to fund their operations. The committee also recommended that Section 85(3) be deleted from the 1999 Constitution to enable the Auditor-General of the Federation to audit or appoint external auditors to audit Federal Government accounts in statutory bodies.

To enhance the country’s revenue base, the conference also recommended that the current 1.68 per cent charge from the Federation Account for the development of solid minerals nationwide be increased to 5 per cent while government should commence immediate utilisation of the fund for the purpose it was designated. It also approved the recommendation that solid minerals and mines should be included in the Concurrent Legislative List. While the conference agreed that government was free to engage in external borrowing, it resolved that a ceiling has to be placed on how much government should borrow. In addition, to monitor projects tied to borrowed funds, the conference agreed that Debt Management Offices be established in each state of the Federation without further delay.

To tackle the problem of corruption in the country, the conference said the National Assembly should enact what it called Ill-Gotten Gain Act to compel individuals to explain the sources of their wealth. Nigerians had widely hailed the decision of the delegates that all elected officers will no longer enjoy immunity, as it was unanimously agreed that the immunity clause be removed from the constitution as recommended in the report of the Hajiya Bola Shagaya-led Committee on Economy, Trade and Investment. The committee had recommended that the immunity clause should be expunged in criminal cases to encourage accountability by those managing the economy. But delegates had during debate of the report amended the original proposal by the committee to indicate that it should not be restricted to criminal charges but all charges. This implied that the President, Vice-President, state governors and their deputies can now be dragged to court over criminal and civil cases. This amendment was overwhelmingly voted for by the delegates as they argued that the inclusion of the immunity clause in the constitution has contributed to unbridled corruption and corrupt practices in the country. Also, the recommendation that Government should formulate low tax on food and high tax on luxury goods was accepted as well as a medium- and short-term poverty eradication programme for the aged, elderly as that would help in skill acquisition and job creation, it is believed, is capable of enhancing the welfare of vulnerable Nigerians.

Also generally hailed by social activists was the approval of the recommendation of the Shagaya Committee that socio-economic rights as contained in Chapter Two of the Constitution should be made justifiable. The aspects of the constitution relate to the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter II which deal with political, economic, social, educational and cultural objectives.

With the recommendation, Nigerians can go to court to enforce their economic and social rights like the Fundamental Human Rights in Chapter IV of the Constitution.

Even as beautiful as some of the recommendations seem, analysts argued that the conference may at the end of the day end up as a colossal wastage of funds and precious time as there was no solid plan for turning the recommendations into laws as at the time of writing this story last week. President Jonathan had during the inauguration of the conference expressed hope that the National Assembly would include a provision for referendum in the constitution which would have enable him present the recommendations to Nigerians for approval. But as the National Conference is rounding off, the President has not presented any such bill to the National Assembly.
Also, the National Assembly is also undertaking a review of the constitution and some of the recommendations of the conference are already looking like a negation of the ideas of the lawmakers about the direction the country should go. Falana, in response to such arguments, told journalists that the National Assembly had a duty to consider legitimate resolutions from the conference in the interest of the country; the National Assembly has a duty to take the interest of all Nigerians into consideration. If the resolutions from this conference are serious, profound and they address the problems of the country, there is no way the National Assembly will not take cognisance of them, Falana said.

In any way, Victor Ndoma-Egba, the Senate leader, said in a recent interview that the lawmakers are not expecting the President to present the report of the National Conference to the National Assembly whenever the document was submitted to him. The senator was reacting to insinuations that the move to amend Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution to enable the President submit bills that will be granted constitutional status was to create an avenue for Jonathan to present the confab report to the National Assembly.

The bill contained in the report of the Senate Constitution Review Committee, submitted by its chairman, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, seeks the amendment to Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution to make a fresh provision for the introduction of an entirely new constitution by the President. But some senators who spoke during debates on the merits and general principles of the bill described it as a backdoor attempt to legalise the National Conference. “The National Conference wants to draft a new constitution for us. I don’t see the need for new constitution. At what point do you want to throw this constitution away and bring in a new one? This proposal is superfluous because there is adequate provision,” Senator Odion Ugbesia said during the consideration of the bill. “The national conference is a body set up by Mr. President, so their report will go to Mr. President and Mr. President will do with the report as he pleases. So it is just the suspicion that this amendment is to provide a ploy to foist the new constitution on the Nigerian people. You can’t just pass a new constitution like that,” said the Senate Leader. He argued that any bill presented by the Preisdent still has to pass through the National Assembly, and has to be approved by 24 houses of the states Assembly before it can become law.

Last Thursday, eminent South-East elders, under the umbrella of Igbo Leaders of Thought, expressed dismay over the turn of events at the conference. Under the leadership of Prof. Ben Nwabueze, they had after their meeting in Enugu lamented that contrary to expectations, the conference will not lead to the restructuring of the nation along six or more zones. “We also noted that perhaps, the two strategic interests of Ndigbo which we are hoping to achieve through the national conference is the zonal structure of the Nigerian federation, that is; the creation of six or more zones in the country within the existing 36 states being retained as part of the federal structure.”

South-West groups have also lamented that most of their recommendations have failed to sail through at the conference. In the same vein, the South-South, going by the trend of events, may not be able to get its main agenda – a substantial increase in revenue allocated based on derivation principle through at the end of the conference.
The three regions may also at the end of the day consider the N4 billion spent to organise the conference a colossal waste.

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