Abuja — The National Conference was, yesterday, thrown into confusion as moves to reach a compromise on recommendations ended in deadlock sparking off chaos at the plenary session.
The rowdy situation forced the house to adjourn abruptly till Monday to prevent the exchanges from degenerating to fisticuffs.
To stem the tide, Chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, his deputy, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and other leaders will meet with elders of the confab also known as '50 wise men', chairmen of the 20 standing committees and their deputies at 11 am today. Disagreement started immediately after the inauguration by President Goodluck Jonathan on modalities of voting. The '50 wise men' intervened and the problem was resolved.
The contentious revenue sharing formula and derivation principle split delegates along regional lines as they failed to reach agreement on what percentage should go to each region.
For the third day, yesterday, delegates failed to conclude voting on the recommendations of the Devolution of Power Committee led by Obong Victor Attah and former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Coomasie, following sharp disagreements between Northern and Southern delegates.
As part of moves to end the logjam surrounding the Devolution of Power Committee report, especially on resource control and derivation, the delegates on Monday put in place a group of Elder statesmen and leaders called the National Conference Consensus group with three selected from each of the three geo-political zones of the country.
Following protests from other delegates, who alleged exclusion, the body was on Tuesday enlarged to accommodate representations from the Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Organised Labour, Women groups, professional bodies and people living with disability among others and the number of members rose to 37.
The Elders Committee through its spokesman and delegate on the platform of Elder Statesmen Category, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, on Wednesday presented the report of the committee which raised derivation from 13 per cent to 18 per cent.
It also resolved that there shall be a National Intervention Fund which shall be five per cent of the annual revenue accruing to the Federal Government for the stabilization, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism and insurgency, in the first instance in the North-East, North -Central, North -West and any other part of the country.
The Elder statesmen also came up with five per cent allocation for exploration and development of all mineral resources as against the present 4.5 per cent and that 50 per cent of the 18 per cent derivation must go directly to the communities from which the mineral resources are extracted.
The report was endorsed by 33 out of the 37 members of the elders' committee. Those who did not sign were Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu and Hon. Mohammed Kumalia and Senator Iyorchia Ayu who was said to have traveled.
Following protest by delegates Wednesday, the matter was adjourned till yesterday. However, delegates failed to reach a compromise yesterday.
Bickering over 5% intervention fund
There was a sharp disagreement over the five per cent intervention fund for the stabilization, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism and insurgency, in the first instance in the North-East, North-Central, North-West and any other part of the country.
The controversial report
The Proposed amendments to the report of the Committee on Devolution of Power by the Elder Statesmen Committee known as the National Conference Consensus group read "Amend recommendation (a) on page 39 of the report of the committee by the substituting with the following:-
1(a) Provided that the principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than eighteen percent (18%) of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account directly from any natural resources.
"(b) That not less than 50% of the total derivation fund accruable to a mineral bearing state shall be due and payable to the host communities within the state where the resources are derived in accordance with the production quota contributed by such communities.
"There shall be established a Solid Mineral Development Fund which is currently 3% of the Federal Government Account referred to by the committee on page 40 of its report, it shall be increased to 5% and will be applied to Solid Minerals Development in the states.
"There shall be a National Intervention Fund, which will be 5% of the annual revenue accruing to the account of the Federal Government for stabilization, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism and insurgency, in the first instance in the North East of Nigeria and any other part of the country affected.
Southern delegates protest
Delegates from the South made up South-South, South-East; South-West protested that if there must be a fund of that nature, it must be for the entire country and not for a section of the country and not for the North alone.
How trouble started
To start the business of the day after the adoption of votes and proceedings, Deputy Conference Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi who told delegates that Prof. Gambari had on Wednesday presented a verbal report, said that they were now with the written report. He added once the derivation amendment was resolved, other recommendations would follow.
Trouble then started shortly after Akinyemi's comment. A member of the Elder Statesmen Committee and a delegate representing Jigawa State, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu said he never signed the document against the backdrop that he was talking to Chief Raymond Dokpesi to find a way of harmonising the one he had with the one that Dokpesi presented.
He pleaded for more time to reconcile with Dokpesi, adding, "there is another document prepared by Dokpesi because the one we have is not the same; we need to see him and say at the end of the day harmonise."
Apparently sighting Dokpesi in the hall, Akinyemi said that the document Dokpesi presented had been challenged and said that after consultation with the chairman that Dokpesi, Dalhatu and other members of the Elder statesmen group were given one hour to go and come up with an agreeable compromise for the house to reconvene at 11.30am.
Elder statesmen committee is Illegal -- Osuoka
When they reconvened at about 12 noon, a delegate on the platform of CSOs, Dr. Isaac Osuoka raised a point of Order citing Order 9, Rule 13 which reads, "the principal officers of the Conference shall propose the number of Committees that shall be necessary for the effective discharge of the mandate of the Conference".
Osuoka, who described the Elder Statesmen Committee as illegal and not recognised in the Procedure Rules, stressed that they were not aware that the leadership appointed any Committee, just as he called on other delegates to ignore the Committee and any recommendation from the members adding, "it is an illegal Committee."
Long wait for compromise
However, when the conference leadership noticed delay in the intervention of the group, Prof. Akinyemi said: "We have tried our best to be accommodating but we can no longer wait again, we shall now go to the committee report."
We reached consensus --Falae
At this point, Chief Olu Falae, who said he had expected Prof. Gambari to present the resolutions of the consensus group, disclosed that his group had reached a consensus, adding that they agreed that the "Principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than eighteen percent (18%) of the revenue accruing to the federation account directly from any natural resources.
"That not less than 50% of total derivation fund accruable to a mineral bearing state shall be due and payable to the host communities within the state where the resources are derived in accordance with the production quota contributed by such communities."
Other agreements according to him, were that there shall be established a Solid Mineral Development Fund which, he said is currently 3 percent of federal government account, but it will be increased to 5 percent and will be applied to Solid Minerals Development in the states, adding, "there shall be a National Intervention Fund, which will be 5 percent of the annual revenue accruing to the account of the federal government for the stabilisation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism and insurgency, in the first instance in the North-east of Nigeria and any other part of the country."
Eruption of chaos
At this point, a delegate representing Yobe State, Engr. Buba Galadima started shouting, saying, 'No document!' 'We must vote!!' No wuruwuru!'
Replying Galadima, an angry Akinyemi said that his utterances did not show respect for the chairman and asked him to be mindful of what he was saying.
He stated that they had tried to be accommodating on this issue and was left with no alternative than to go back to the committee's original recommendation, adding, "We have to proceed with the original committee recommendation."
Another delegate representing Borno State, Dr. Haruna Yerima also shouted saying that there was not going to be any voice vote, adding that delegates will use the ballot boxes to vote on every item.
At this point, a delegate representing the North-Central, Senator Musa Adede told the leadership and delegates that they were deviating from where they started, even as he stressed that the leadership has been given the confidence and that no one could intimidate Kutigi.
Report does not have our support -- Coomasie
In his comment, Ibrahim Coomasie, said: "I am one of the delegates from the North and a member of the Arewa Consultative Forum involved in the discussion on derivation and I want to say that we had discussions, but ended in a stalemate, there was no conclusion and so any report submitted to you here regarding the meeting does not have our support."
Some people never wanted the conference to work-- Dokpesi
Speaking with Journalists after the adjournment, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who noted that all their recommendations were agreed upon on principle, alleged that there were people who were determined to disrupt and ensure that the conference does not come to a proper end. He said that the bone of contention was whether they should include the Northwest and North central in the area affected by the insurgency adding: "It is totally untrue that what we submitted is not what we agreed on.
Everything has been agreed and on the issue of the five per cent intervention fund, what we agreed was that for the stabilization, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by insurgency and terrorism should be created and should be used first in the North-East.
But some northern delegates refused to sign the agreement. So the issue is that they want the North -West and North-Central to be added to it. But we said that the area where you have the greatest amount of crisis right now is the North East.
"All the Southern leaders, North central leaders, made sacrifices but there are people who never wanted this conference to succeed and these people were the people that were shouting today."