President Goodluck Jonathan has said the report of the National Conference will be sent to the National Assembly and the Council of State for “incorporation into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The council consists of governors, former presidents or heads of state, former Chief Justices of Nigeria, Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Jonathan, while receiving the report of the conference from its Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, in Abuja on Thursday, however added that the Executive would implement any aspect of the report that concerned it.
He assured Kutigi that there was no way the report of the conference would be a waste as being speculated in some quarters.
He said, “As I receive the report of your painstaking deliberations, let me assure you that your work is not going be a waste of time and resources.
“We shall do all we can to ensure the implementation of your recommendations which have come out of consensus and not by divisions.
“The discourse reflected our latest challenges. We shall send the relevant aspects of your recommendations to the Council of State and the National Assembly for incorporation into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. On our part, we shall act on those aspects required of us in the Executive.”
Jonathan stated that it would be wrong to assume that there were people who he said could be credited with having a monopoly of knowledge.
He said those in government needed to feed from the thoughts of those who elected them, adding that as patriots, the delegates had done their duty.
The President said what was left was for the elected ones to do their own job.
He added, “As I receive the report of your painstaking deliberations, let me assure that your work is not going be a waste of time and resources.
“We shall do all we can to ensure the implementation of your recommendations which have come out of consensus and not by divisions.”
The President appealed to all arms of government and Nigerians to be ready to play the different roles that the report would assign to them.
He said with the report of the conference, the country was on the right path to getting the job of nation building done.
Apart from this, he said with the report of the conference coming 100 years after the Amalgamation, there were hopes of a landmark in the country’s history.
As a Nigerian, he said, he had always believed that dialogue was a better way of driving change in a community, adding that he was happy that the conference ended well.
“With the far-reaching recommendations touching on several areas of our national life, I am convinced that this will be a major turning point for Nigeria,” he said.
The President told the gathering, which included his deputy, Namadi Sambo; the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Muktar and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and diplomats, among others, that the success recorded by the conference had proved those who predicted that nothing good would come out of it wrong.
He commended the delegates for controlling their emotions during the period the conference which was inaugurated on March 17, 2014 lasted.
Jonathan said, “The success of this conference has proved the cynics wrong in many respects.
“Those who dismissed the entire conference ab initio as a ‘diversion’ have been proved wrong as what you achieved has contrary to their forecast diverted our country only from the wrong road to the right direction.
“They said the conference would end in a deadlock as Nigeria had reached a point where the constituent parts could no longer agree on any issue.”
He said this was why he suggested that the delegates should arrive at their decisions by consensus or 75 per cent majority.
The President said when his suggestion posed a challenge to the conference, some people advised that he should intervene .
But he said he refused because many members of the conference were old enough to resolve their disagreements.
The President said, “That was the first challenge you had during the conference when it appeared you were going to break up.
“There were suggestions that we should intervene as government to ‘save’ the conference at that dicey moment but I insisted that beyond the inauguration, we were not going to intrude into the affairs of the conference in any manner.
“One of the many reasons for our non-interference is this: we have at the conference, 494 delegates and six conference officials who all in their individual rights are qualified to lead our great country and if they were unable to agree on how to take decisions, we would be in real trouble!
“Acknowledging the quality and patriotic content of the delegates, I was confident, the right thing would be done.”
The President said he was aware that there were a few outstanding issues yet, which the delegates were unable to agree on.
These are derivation and sharing formula among the three tiers of government.
He added that if everybody agreed on every issue, the debate would not only be lacking in quality and passion, it would also be said to have been stage-managed.
President Jonathan said what “we should worry about now is not that there were disagreements in one or two items, but how to manage these disagreements such that nobody walks away feeling short-changed and bitter.”
While submitting the 10,335-page report, Kutigi said that all issues were arrived at by consensus.
Kutigi said the work of the conference remained the most tasking in the history of national conference in the country.
He said, “The 1978 Constituent Assembly had a membership of 230 people and met for nine months. The 1995 National Constitutional Conference had a membership of 371 people and met for 12 months.
“The 2005 National Political Reform Conference was made up of 400 delegates and met for five months.
“We are 494 in membership and you made us do all this work in four and half months.”
The former Chief Justice of Nigeria added that the conference approved over 600 resolutions, some dealing with issues of law, policy and amendment to the 1999 Constitution
He said the resolutions did not deal with frivolous or inconsequential issues and that the delegates showed courage in tackling them.
Council of State has no role to play –Falana
When one of our correspondents asked a conference delegate, Femi Falana (SAN), if it was right for the President to send the report to the National Assembly and the Council of State, he replied that the council had nothing to do with it.
He explained that the recommendations of the conference were in three stages – policy implementation, amendment of some laws and rewriting of the 1999 Constitution.
He said the first stage was meant for the President and his cabinet members to effect while the second and the third stages are bills to be forwarded by the Executive to the National Assembly for incorporation in the Constitution.
After the incorporation, he added, a referendum would be held.
He said, “The first stage has to do with policy implementation and that is for the Executive; the second one involves amending certain laws while the third one pertains to rewriting the Constitution. For the second and the third stages, the President has to present bills to the National Assembly for them to pass them into law after which the Constitution would be presented to Nigerians for a referendum.
“The Council of State has nothing to do with the recommendations of the conference. It is just an advisory body.”
Delegates form pressure group
Meanwhile, some of the delegates have formed a pressure group with the aim of pushing for the implementation of the decisions reached at the conference.
The group, known as the “National Consensus Initiative”, was inaugurated few hours after Jonathan declared the conference closed in Abuja on Thursday.
Members of the group vowed to ensure that the report was fully implemented.
Their Interim Coordinator , Mr. Remi Olatubora, told journalists after the inaugural meeting of the group’s Steering Committee, that they were worried that the recommendations and reports of such conferences in the past were never implemented.
He disclosed that members would work as an advocacy group towards ensuring that “decisions of the conference are not left on the shelf to gather dust in the manner in which the reports of earlier conferences were treated.”