Conference to Draft New Constitution
Adopts 18-point terms of reference, rules
From Paul Ibe in Abuja, 03.11.2005
One of the legacies the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC)
will bequeath to the nation is a new constitution that may replace
the 1999 Constitution.
Also, the conference yesterday resolved to empanel 18 committees,
which essentially translates to the number of the broad terms of
reference. It, was however, gathered that two more committees, may be
added to bring the total to 20.
President Olusegun Obasanjo had while inaugurating the conference
three weeks ago said the experiences of operating the 1999
Constitution in the last six years indicated clearly that it contains
a number of imperfections. Also, the constitution had been criticized
as being a product of the military establishment and not reflecting
the wishes and aspirations of the vast majority of the populace.
In response to that yearning, the conference resolved that a
Conference Drafting Committee will be constituted during the "process
when the reports and recommendations of all the committees have been
formulated, discussed and agreed at the plenary."
The adoption of the terms of reference followed the conclusion of
debates on President Obasanjo's inaugural speech and the
harmonization of the outcome of that debate with the Makarfi
committee report which gave birth to the establishment of the
The conference chairman, Justice Niki Tobi had in exercise of the
powers conferred on him in the absence of rules of procedures (only
adopted yesterday afternoon) set up an ad hoc select committee to
help in fashioning out terms of reference.
The committee headed by former Chairman of the Economic Commission
for Africa, Prof. Adebayo Adedeji, was said to have worked till 2 am
yesterday morning to meet its deadline. The committee also included
Alh. Umaru Dikko, Prof. Joe Irukwu, Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Matthew
Mbu and Dr. (Mrs.) Nkoyo Toyo among others.
But as soon as Adedeji presented his report, a heated debate ensued.
Some delegates said it was wrong for Tobi to have set up a committee
without approval of the conference. Others noted that the chairman
had taken the right step. But in his characteristic style, the
retired Supreme Court judge allowed as many delegates as possible
opportunities to make contributions.
He, however, ruled that by setting up the Adedeji committee (which he
said also included other eminent Nigerians), he was not only
exercising his powers as chairman, but also in accordance with an
earlier motion that asked him to run and conduct the conference in
the absence of rules of procedures.
"These eminent men and women worked hard to produce this report (and)
is this how we are going to reward them?" he asked.
At this point, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir moved that the Adedeji report be
adopted as a framework for the conference's job.
The 18-point terms of reference include the economy, human and social
security, national security, social infrastructure for national
development and integration, models and structure of government,
power sharing, revenue allocation, the legislature, the executive and
traditional institutions and culture.
Others are public service, the judiciary & legal reforms, political
parties and the electoral process (models), the environment and
natural disasters, civil society, labour & trade unions & national
media, local government reforms, foreign policy, national,
international development policy constituting a new sustainable
democratic order in Nigeria.
Under the economy, issues such as agriculture and food, land tenure
system, oil and gas, manufacturing industry, services, foreign trade,
monetary policy and protection of the national currency, debt
(external and internal) and foreign exchange and national development
will be discussed.
The other 17 subjects also have sub-themes listed as follows:
Human and Social Security
•Human rights and the rule of law
•Education: Primary, secondary and tertiary
•The development of the Nigerian child
•Food and water security
•Culture & sports
•Social security (Pension)
•Citizen & Immigration
• Other security apparatus (Vigilante groups, etc)
•Information and communications technology.
Models and Structure of Government:
Tiers of government (federal, regional/zonal authority)
•Federal, state and local or federal, region and state.
Exclusive list for Federal Government (without any concurrent list)
•Region/state government or local sharing
•Power sharing between regional authority and state
Also, yesterday the rule of procedure for the conference was adopted
after consideration of the reports by delegates that was submitted at
the close of meeting Wednesday. The rules of procedures was adopted
after Punch Chairman, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola moved a motion to that
The conference will on Monday commence debate on issues of economy,
human and social development, national security and social
infrastructure for national development.
THE NATIONAL POLITICAL REFORM CONFERENCE:
Akhigbe dissociates self from apology over military misrule
By Bolade Omonijo
Posted to the Web: Tuesday, March 08, 2005
FORMER Chief of General Staff, Admiral Mike Akhigbe has dissociated
himself from the apology tendered by General Adeyinka Adebayo on
behalf of the military at the on-going National Conference.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Vanguard at the conference,
Admiral Akhigbe said "he could only have apologized on behalf of the
military of his own generation, not mine. My own generation of the
military did not cause the ills of Nigeria."
Admiral Akhigbe argued that the problem of the country arises from
inadequate institutional arrangement. His words: What I expect of us
at this confab is to be in sober mood to reflect on the past. I
expect those in power now to realise that there were mistakes made in
the past and there are mistakes being made now. Some people have come
to blame all the ills of Nigeria on the military. This is not
correct. No country has perfect human beings.
The problem is with the structure in place. The structural
arrangement is defective."
Explaining what he meant by structural defects, Admiral Akhigbe
advocated devolution of powers to the federating units but opined
that the six zones be transformed into regions since the states as
constituted today are too weak
He argued that the inequity in the sharing of national resources is a
major problem that must be addressed, claiming that ethnicity is a
major problem afflicting the country.
According to him, "the sharing of resources of the country is based
on the majority ethnic groups and this is doomed to fail. The
minorities who actually are the majority of the people are sidelined
in the process."
The former military chief spoke further: "If the President is Yoruba,
the Vice President must be Hausa-Fulani and the Senate President,
Igbo. The Speaker of the House of Representatives again must be Hausa
Fulani. If you have an Architect Dabo at the Maritime Institute, you
must have an Architect Ferdinand Agu at another because there is a
Sarumi, a professional in the sector. With this no nation can grow.
The major problem we have is that the institutions in place are
inadequate and this is what we have to address.
Retired Commodore Emeka Omeruah had earlier associated himself with
the apology tendered by General Adebayo.
Sagay takes on opponents of Resource Control
PROFESSOR Itse Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria another delegate
from Delta, argued forcefully against the notion that the resources
from the North was used to develop the Niger Delta before oil became
a major contributor to national revenue.
The Professor of Law said "every region of Nigeria produced something
before oil was discovered and anyone who produced something pocketed
the money. Unlike now that money from Oil and Gas is appropriated by
the federal government, derivation was the rule in the first
republic. I think there is need for this education.
Also contributing to the debate on what would eventually happen to
the outcome of the conference, Professor Sagay charged delegates to
take the initiative in deciding the future.
He said: The outcome depends on us and not on anyone outside this
conference. If we fail, nobody should blame anyone outside this
Delegates fault Obasanjo's statistics on economy
AS the debate on the President''s inaugural speech continued, most of
the delegates said the figures reeled out by the President showing a
healthy performance could not be related to the real experience of
Professor Francis Idachaba said the interest of the majority of
Nigerians is about where the next meal would come from and that their
experience actually showed that their fortunes had not improved.
Chief G. G. Giwa, a delegate representing the Organised Private
Sector complained bitterly about the state of power supply, which he
said had not improved in real terms.
To achieve results, he suggested that two Private Power Plants be
licenced for each geo-political zone and charged to generate and
distribute 500 Mega watts of electricity within the next two years.
He warned that if NEPA were allowed the monopoly status it currently
enjoys, the bid for improvement in that all-important sector would
Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora, a former Director General of the
Manufacturers Association of Nigeria was worried that only one per
cent of the population controlled about 70 per cent of the nation's
He called on delegates to ensure the creation of an economic
environment that would guarantee better life for the vast majority of
Nigerians by investing heavily in human capital.
Mr Ziggy Azike from Imo State caused a stir when he alluded to the
fact that the president might not have done enough in his speech in
dispelling the fears that he might be going for a third term.
Attempts by the Chairman to cut him short failed as he emphasised
that all the cards must be laid on the table for the country to move
Fallout of Military apology: Clark wants political elite to tender
CONTRIBUTING on the floor of the conference, Chief Edwin Clark, a
delegate from Delta State argued that it was not enough for the
military to apologise to the country, he called on the political
elite to do the same.
In his words: "How many of us contributed to the coups and counter
coups staged by the military? The political elite must apologise to
the people of Nigeria for failing them just as General Adebayo did
for the military."
On the boycott of the conference by Chief Enahoro and promoters of
the PRONACO conference, Chief Clark appealed to them to have a change
of heart and join forces with those at the conference, arguing that
it did not matter whether a Conference is sovereign or not.
"I appeal to Chief Enahoro and his colleagues to join their
colleagues in this crusade to build a new Nigeria. Whether sovereign
or not, I have always maintained that I would join any conference to
redesign Nigeria," said Chief Clark.
Anambra crisis stirs confab delegates — As Arewa threatens religious
By Bolade Omonijo, Emeka Mamah & Emmanuel Aziken
Posted to the Web: Wednesday, March 09, 2005
ABUJA— THE prolonged political crisis in Anambra State caused a stir
at the National Political Reform Conference yesterday with majority
of delegates objecting to an attempt to query President Olusegun
Obasanjo's role in the crisis.
Meanwhile, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday threatened
that the nation was on its way to a possible religious uprising if
the Federal Government failed to heed calls by Nigerian Muslims to
change the lopsided composition of the conference which favours
Also at the conference yesterday, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, chairman
of the defunct Human Rights Violations and Investigation Panel
lamented the inability of the Nigerian nation to add value to the
lives of ordinary Nigerians just as Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd.),
Chief of General Staff in the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime, traced
the nation's failures to the limited vision of its former leaders.
Besides, female delegates at the conference took opportunity of the
day's declaration as International Women Day to draw attention to
what they alleged were gender disparity in the allocation of the
instruments of political power by government. Former President of
the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), Hajia Zainab Maina,
particularly chided state governors for their low political value of
women, lamenting that only five women were nominated out of the more
than 200 nominees made by governors to the conference.
Other delegates that spoke yesterday were Chief Bayo Ojo, President
of the Nigerian Bar Association; Mrs. Margaret Ichen, former Speaker
of the Benue House of Assembly who came as a delegate of the Arewa
Consultative Forum; Mrs Bisi Ogunleye, who introduced herself as a
representative of rural women and asked for $2 billion on behalf of
rural women to help eradicate poverty in the land.
Other speakers included Nze Ozi Chukwu, national vice-chairman of
the People's Democratic Party (PDP); Alhaji Tukur Mani, a former
Federal Permanent Secretary; Alhaji Awaal Tukur, an immediate past
member of the House of Representatives; and King Alfred Diette-
Spiff, former Military Governor of the old Rivers State.
In a statement yesterday, the ACF said the lopsided composition of
the conference by President Obasanjo might spark off religious
hostilities in the country. The ACF said by making such lopsided
appointments without regard to constitutional requirement for quota
system and balance, the Obasanjo government was pitching Muslims
against Christians, thereby fanning the embers of religious
antagonism and hostility in the country.
The statement which was signed by its Publicity Secretary, Mr Aliyu
Hayatu, warned that unless government took urgent steps to correct
the religious imbalance in the composition of the membership and
leadership of the conference, religious crisis was most likely to
rock the country. It described the alleged lopsided appointment as
most "reckless and irresponsible."
Muslim groups such as the Jama'atu Nasil Islam (JNI) and the Supreme
Council for Islamic Affairs had earlier criticised government for
what they called lopsided composition of the leadership and
membership of the conference, while the Northern Christian Elders
Forum (NORCEF) also alleged that Christians in some northern states
were marginalised in the selection of delegates. The Northern states
chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) alleged that
the composition of the conference was a true reflection of the
The press statement reads in part: "The fact that Obasanjo had gone
ahead to make these appointments in deliberate and total disregard
of the religious controversy he would thus ignite, may be seen as a
manifestation of a desperate intent to actualise a hidden agenda.
ACF wishes to state that this is sad and frightening.
"Therefore, the ACF wishes to reiterate that by making appointments
in defiance of the constitutional requirement for quota and balance,
the Federal Government has only succeeded in pitching Muslims
against Christians, thereby fanning the dangerous embers of
religious antagonism. This, ACF wishes to observe, is reckless and
"ACF is fully aware of the constitutional provision which compels
government to use quota and balance as yardstick for appointments.
The unmistaken constitutional intendment here is not only to give
all sections suspicion and rancour, which, in an emerging Nigerian
society, have continued to be a source of animosity and violence.
"ACF wishes to observe that given the extreme importance and
sensitivity of the NPRC to the future direction of Nigeria, the
natural expectation is that the Federal Government will exercise
utmost care and responsibility in making appointments so as to
ensure that no ground is given for this suspicion and rancour. This,
the government failed to do.
"As things now stand, Nigerians are only left to conclude that the
Federal Government is unwilling to demonstrate the required level of
care, maturity and responsibility to re-assure the nation of
official impartiality and goodwill. President Obasanjo knows Nigeria
very well. He knows that the kind of lopsided appointment he made
for the political reform conference will definitely ignite religious
controversy and attendant hostility."
In his contribution at yesterday's session of the confab, however,
Alhaji M.T. Waziri from Kano State lamented that while Nigeria was
seemingly being seen as a big brother in Africa, it was remarkable
that the people of the country were suffering. "I have discovered
that whenever there is an oil boom that Nigeria makes much money,
but Nigerians don't get to see that money."
Alhaji Waziri questioned Nigeria's claim to pre-eminence in the
continent, saying: "We are saying that we are the leader of Africa,
but that is false as a country is as big as the contentment of its
people. Where on earth would you hear that the President of a
country would write the chairman of the ruling party a letter and
say that a godfather would tell a Governor `you know that you didn't
win an election' and the Governor would accept."
As he spoke, Alhaji Waziri was challenged by an unidentified female
delegate who raised a point of order and some other conference
delegates who chorused that Waziri had departed from the agenda
which was reactions to the President's inaugural speech.
Following the disruption, Alhaji Waziri was forced to seek the help
of the conference chair, Justice Niki Tobi who bade him to continue
with his remarks. However, as Alhaji Waziri started to speak, he was
stopped by Justice Tobi who told him that his time was over and
quite unlike other speakers before him and after him, no extension
was given him to round up his remarks. Justice Tobi immediately
after cautioned delegates to watch their utterances.
Mr Zik Obi from Anambra State was the only other delegate yesterday
that made reference to the situation in Anambra State as he called
for fundamental restructuring of the polity that would give heed to
calls for a decentralisation of the Armed Forces and the Police.
According to him, the creation of State Police would give protection
to governors like Dr. Chris Ngige whose police security was
withdrawn for the better part of 2004.
In his remark yesterday, Justice Oputa asked for a redesigning of
the political framework to enable the promotion of values that
promote good governance and unity of the land. Lamenting that India
which had the same colonial experience as Nigeria had gone far ahead
of Nigeria in all respects, the retired Supreme Court Justice said
it was unexpected that Nigerians who had received little value from
the country would give their loyalty to the fatherland.
Nze Chukwu, PDP national vice-chairman, endorsed the presidential
system of government but sought a rotation of the office of
President among the six geo-political zones even as he affirmed that
Nigerian unity must evolve through understanding.
In his contribution, King Diette-Spiff said those accusing the
military of having held the nation hostage now had an opportunity at
the conference to liberate themselves. The former military governor
rationalised the introduction of presidential system of government
to the military's command and control culture which he said was
closely related to the unitary form of government.
Commodore Ukiwe, former Chief of General Staff lamented the limited
vision of some of the country's former rulers, saying: "Many
delegates have laid emphasis on their frustrations with the system.
This gathering should start with a collective principle."