The dinner Proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan to honour members of the National Conference 2014 was abruptly cancelled yesterday without any official reason, it was reliably gathered.
Delegates to the conference who expected an opportunity to meet with the President at the dinner, fixed to hold at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja at about 8:00 pm yesterday, were disappointed to hear about the cancellation. The decision was not officially communicated to them also, it was learnt.
The Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi and delegates had hosted the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, to a closing dinner on Wednesday, August 20, at the National Judicial Institute in Abuja, and according to the programme of events, the President was to host the delegates to a proper dinner on Thursday, August 21. The event was however cancelled at the last minute.
Efforts to get explanation for the cancellation from the Presidency were unsuccessful, as the Special Adviser on Media to the President, Reuben Abati could not be reached on phone. Text message sent to his phone requesting for a reaction was also not answered at the time of going to press.
However, sources said the cancellation might not be unconnected to anger in Presidency circles, caused by the Draft New Constitution recently shot down by delegates. It would be recalled that the delegates were at daggers drawn, following the emergence of a New Draft Constitution, which was allegedly laced with a third term agenda.
The document caused a major rift among delegates, who were divided along regional and ethnic lines. The fire was only put out after the delegates resolved to expunge the title of the Draft New Constitution 2014 and replaced it with Proposed Amendment to the 1999 Constitution, a development which rested whatever third term agenda suspected to have been imported into the document.
Also, sources said key figures in the Presidency were enraged about the failure of the conference to approve a handsome percentage for derivation accruing to oil producing states of the South-South, hence the decision to cancel the dinner, believed to be unnecessary.
At the start of the conference, some delegates boasted of pursuing a 100% derivation for oil producing states, but as the sitting progressed, there were agitations for 50%, but subsequently, 18.5% was roundly canvassed which represents a 5.5% increase from the original derivation, which stands at 13%.
In the end, following the heated argument by delegates from all the regions, the status quo of 13% was retained in the report, and a recommendation was made to the President to constitute a separate committee outside the Conference to assess and recommend appropriate increase in the derivation regime.
This, according so sources, did not go down well with some influential figures in the Presidency who resolved not to recognize the delegates who did not discharge their duties “according to the rules.”