Posted by News Express | 1 July 2014 | 3,264 times
It was a day of lengthy arguments yesterday at the National Conference sitting in Abuja. The bone of contention was a newspaper publication alleging that the leadership of the Conference was involved in premature preparation of a report that would be adopted as representing the position of the conference.
As soon as the matter came up on the floor through a motion by Ish’aq Moddibo Kawu, arguments started as delegates were divided on whether the Conference Deputy Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, who was mentioned in another allegation involving the writing of a new constitution, should respond to it or not.
Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN, and others were of the view that the publication should be dismissed as it was meant to distract the Conference from is set goals. Ahamba claimed that those who are disappointed by the progress the Conference has made so far are bent on scuttling it, but admonished that it should be resisted and not allowed to succeed.
Those who shared that position also challenged those behind the publication and who claimed to have been lobbied by the Deputy Chairman to step forward and justify their claims with evidence. They said that if this is not done, Daily Trust newspaper that published the story should be asked to apologise to the Conference.
However, former President of the Senate, Dr. Ken Nnamani, raised a counter motion demanding that Akinyemi be allowed to explain himself since he was present at the sitting.
The same position was canvassed by Dr. Haruna Yerima, who argued that the allegation should not be dismissed because “morality demands that the Deputy Chairman clears his name.”
The Deputy Chairman, in a brief comment, denied ever lobbying anybody to adopt a new constitution which the publication alleged he was spearheading.
He explained that a few days ago, as was customary when there are contentious issues that have the potential of threatening the smooth progression of the Conference, he had approached political leaders at the Conference from both the north and the south separately, to discuss their differences regarding the issue of whether or not there was need for a new Constitution arising from the proceedings of the Conference.
He said it was normal for him or any member of the leadership to seek such diverse opinions from delegates across geo-political lines towards resolving any contentious issue that arises from the Conference before such an issue is eventually put up for division at plenary.
Akinyemi, a former Foreign Affairs Minister, went ahead to mention names of people he met to discuss the issue. He stated without any ambiguity that the issue of lobbying for the adoption of a new Constitution by the Conference was absolutely false as he only set out to ensure harmony between two opposing groups.
Shortly after, former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, who was also mentioned in the story, confirmed that he was invited to the meeting by Akinyemi but could not attend although he raised a team of northern delegates to meet with the Deputy Chairman to discuss the issues involved.
Coomasie explained that when he observed some moves which tended not to be in line with his initial conception of the meeting, he became weary and decided to pull out. “By last Tuesday, I was told a new constitution has been written,” he said. Coomasie mentioned Chief Raymond Dokpesi as the person who had also invited him to a meeting and who later gave him a document which allegedly was published on the claims of representing the position of the Conference.
Chief Dokpesi, who spoke next, absolved the leadership of the Conference from involvement in the meeting he convened and the issuance of what he called a Working Document produced by the group which comprised delegates from the existing geo-political zones.
He said he and Prof. Ibrahim Gambari had convened a meeting under the auspices of National Consensus Bridge-Building Group to discuss and close areas of differences regarding some critical areas of agreement and disagreement at the Conference.
Dokpesi mentioned the controversy surrounding the creation of State Police which was resolved last week without any dissenting voice as one of such areas discussed and agreed upon.
The delegate noted that membership of the group, which he said he convened as a lobbyist body without the knowledge of the leadership of the Conference, cuts across all the geo-political groups represented at the Conference.
He said three delegates were nominated by the group from each of the geo-political zones and that part of their agenda was analysis of all the reports submitted by the 20 committees appointed by the Conference, particularly the recommendations of the committees.
Regarding the publication, Chief Dokpesi said it had nothing to do with the leadership of the Conference and that “there is nothing secret in the document,” as it was a mere working document agreed upon by 15 of the 18 members of the group.
“I want to affirm irrevocably that the leadership (of the National Conference) has nothing absolutely to do with this Committee. This is a working document and not a final document,” Dokpesi.
He, however, noted that Prof. Auwalu Yadudu, a delegate, had approached him last week with a letter declaring that all the northern delegates were withdrawing from the group on the grounds that what the group was doing was sponsored.
Dokpesi said he did his best in telling Yadudu that the activities of the group had nothing to do with the Conference leadership; and that it was there to discuss and agree on certain contentious issues.
At the end his explanation, Conference Chairman, retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Kutigi, GCON, said from all the explanations offered, it was clear that the leadership of the Conference knew nothing about the document in question.
He said while delegates were free to meet and discuss issues of interest regarding the Conference, “If you want to do anything for yourselves, please do so but don’t include us.” Kutigi told delegates that the leadership of the Conference was seeing the document for the first when it was presented to him during the plenary session by Alhaji Coomasie and insisted that the leadership had nothing to do with it contrary to what was speculated in the media.
•Photo shows National Conference Deputy Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi.
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