Again, tempers rose yesterday when the Consensus Group of the National Conference announced to the plenary its recommendation of 18 percent increment on the derivation formula for oil producing states.
As a form of concession to other regions, however, five percent allocations respectively for solid minerals development and a special fund for the stabilization, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North were also endorsed.
This is just as the delegates yesterday disagreed on whether the final report of the Conference should pass through a referendum or be sent to the National Assembly for ratification.
The consensus group, comprising of the leaders of the six geo-political zones and some members of civil society organisations, labour, employers’ associations, professional bodies and many others, had on Tuesday sought the permission of the conference to consult and negotiate amongst themselves, with a view to arriving at a consensus on the vexed issue of derivation.
The members were granted and they went into consultations and negotiation in the belief that, “promoting consensus as way forward on derivation that has the capacity to divide this house, and even this country, was the only solution to the vexed issue”.
Yesterday afternoon, the group returned and was yielded the floor to present its recommendations. Leader of the group, Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd) introduced Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, to present its recommendations.
Prof. Gambari, a diplomat, said the process of arriving at a solution was tedious but in the interest of the country, and therefore revealed thus: “This group adopted a position and recommended to the plenary not less than 18 percent as the derivation formula from the present 13%, after considering the various suggestions canvassed by respective groups ranging from total resource control, 50, 25, 21.5, 20, and finally 18 percentages, with a 10-year review proviso attached”.
Other packages proposed along with it the 18 percent, were: -Five percent allocation to be made for solid minerals development.
“You know we have solely been relying on oil revenue for liquid asset, and now the time has come for us to give more attention to other resources which we have in abundance.
-“We have recommended a new fund to be established: Fund for Stabilization, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction and another 5 % to be allocated for that and principally 50 percent for North-east and 50 for North-central.
“These recommendations, if endorsed will be reflected in the revenue allocation act. We have also recommended a safeguard mechanism to make sure that monies allocated for these purposes be utilized to the benefit of the people”, he added.
However, these recommendations did not go down well with some delegates especially those from the South-west who felt that the group had been insensitive to the plights of their zones, and the South-east which is being ravaged by erosion and flooding.
Several delegates who felt their zones had been short-changed shouted “no no; we don’t accept these recommendations, we have been cheated”,
even as Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, who conducted the session called for motion for adjournment, which was moved and seconded while the majority continued to kick against the proposals.
Former Military Administrator of Lagos state Raji Rasaq expressed displeasure with the group for “neglecting” the South-west and vowed that the zone will vote against the proposal today, when it will be debated at the plenary. Other delegates also slammed the group, especially over the portion that gave special funds only to the North.
Chief Olu Falae, Sen. Anietie Okon, Gen. Nwachukwu, among other members of the same consensus group, openly disagreed and dismissed the latter recommendation on special funds.
Though Northern delegates generally declined comments, an Adamawa state representative, Isa Mafindi, expressed delight, noting that it was high time certain injustices were corrected. He said the North will unite in support of the recommendations because the interests of its suffering populace would be addressed by the new provisions.
Meanwhile, our reporters gathered that the group has recommended a sharp reduction to the allocation accruable to the federal government from the present 52.5 percent to about 29 percent.
Meanwhile, there was also disagreement yesterday at the plenary on modalities for implementation of the final report of the Conference.
While some suggested that the report should be subjected to referendum, other delegates felt it should be sent to the National Assembly for adoption.
The Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, tabled the issue of modalities for implementation of the final report of the Conference for delegates’ contribution.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Azu Agboti, representing elder statesmen, said that the Confab did a wonderful job, and should package the report professionally for it to stand the test of time.
“The report should be divided into three parts” policy, political and constitutional. The first two reports should be sent to the president who will implement it inform of white paper. The constitutional part that will be submitted to National Assembly for review”, he said.
Also contributing, the former Senate President and delegate representing North Central, Iyorchia Ayu, proposed for a small body that will liaise with the National Assembly for possible synergy to drive the report home.
Ayu, who took a swipe on those that dismissed the 1999 Constitution as undemocratic, said: “We have very important people in this conference.
People from all walks of life. I believe that those who said the Constitution is undemocratic mean that the conference is undemocratic. A constitution is a law. American Constitution is an undemocratic Constitution that was made by about 37 people and it has been amended up to 27 times.
“We should have a small body that will make a gesture and familiarize with the National Assembly”, he said.
A former Inspector-General of Police and delegate representing North-west, Alhaji Ibrahim Commassie, said: “The president has done great by convening this conference. We are not elected but selected.
These recommendations be sent to the National Assembly, which will become effective through parliament enactment”.
A constitutional lawyer and delegate representing the federal government, Chief Mike Ozekhome, who brought a legal angle to it said, it is the Constitution that gave birth to the National Assembly and not the other way round.
He however, supported the idea of subjecting the report to referendum but with full consultation with the National Assembly to make way for a ‘people oriented constitution’. The debate is expected to continue today.