Disagreement over Boko Haram special fund threatens survival of National Conference •Northern delegates shun peace meeting

Posted by News Express | 12 July 2014 | 2,960 times

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The division at the ongoing National Conference sank deeper yesterday following the boycott of a peace parley with the Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, by Northern delegates.

Kutigi was scheduled to meet with a team of “50 wise men” randomly selected among the delegates.

The peace session was to seek the way forward following  the split of the 492 delegates over derivation formula and five per cent intervention funds for the North-East, North-West and North-Central.

While the Southern delegates favour increase in derivation formula from 13 per cent to 18 per cent, Northern delegates are demanding five per cent Intervention Funds for the North-East (3%), North-West (1%) and North-Central (1%) which had been plagued by Boko Haram insurgency.

But the Southern delegates insisted that the five per cent should be designated as National Intervention Funds to cater for emergency situation nationwide.

Another area of disagreement is the demand for ballot process to make delegates feel free on any decision.

Northern delegates alleged that voice vote is being manipulated by the conference leadership to “achieve a predetermined agenda.”

The differences made Northern and Southern delegates to engage in shouting match on Thursday, leading to the constitution of a team of 50 wise men by Kutigi to build consensus.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that only 25 out of the 50 wise men showed up for the meeting.

Findings showed that most Northern delegates in the wise men’s team boycotted the meeting with Kutigi and his deputy, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi.

One of the frustrated wise men, who spoke in confidence, said: “We could not form the quorum; we had to discuss informally, which is not binding.

“Most of the Northern delegates did not honour the session as agreed by latching on one excuse or the other.

“I think some Northern delegates have a hidden agenda which would not augur well for the survival of the National Conference.”

A source close to the Secretariat of the National Conference, however, said: “The closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport to traffic affected the peace meeting between Kutigi and the 50 wise men.

“Most of the 50 wise men and co-chairmen and deputy chairmen said the closure would affect their movement to their respective states to see their families and for that reason, they won’t be able to attend.

“Only about 25 of them showed up. They just discussed at random and left thereafter.”

A delegate from the North, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, who spoke with our correspondent, said: “The meeting was boycotted by the North. First and foremost, Kutigi was aware from the leadership of the Northern Leadership Forum at the conference that the Northern delegates among the 50 wise men were not going to attend. He is not the chairman of the northern delegates.”

“Our leader, ex-IGP Ibrahim Ahmadu Coomasie, stood up at the floor of the National Conference and said the northern delegates will no longer attend the meeting of the 50 wise men unless a ballot process is put in place to decide on any recommendation.

“If they tell you anything, do not believe them. I am aware that some respected delegates like Umar Hadejia, ex-Minister Bashiru Dalhatu, Buba Galadima, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu and Sadiq Mohammed, among others, did not attend the meeting called by Kutigi. Actually, Sadiq Mohammed came with me this afternoon from Abuja.

“If there was an attempted meeting it failed, it must have been a figment of their imagination.

On the way forward, Dr. Junaid Mohammed said: “Ask Kutigi who does not want democracy; who does not want us to chart the way forward.

“We came to this conference to defend and protect our interests; we do not come to participate in the reengineering of Nigerian state. The majority has been turned into minority. The North has 62 per cent of the population of this country. Yet out of 492 delegates we are less than 180 at the National Conference.

“We are insisting on ballot because they have been corrupting the voice vote. The rules of the conference say we must have consensus three times and if it failed, we must have physical counting. Since we started, neither Kutigi nor Akinyemi has allowed ballot.

“We either respect the rule or break the conference. What the chairman and the deputy want, was to blackmail the Northern delegates. We would not be blackmailed, we would not be intimidated, and we would not be fazed. As true democrats, we would not shy away from the ballot process.”

A key Southern delegate, who spoke in confidence, said: “The only thing we are ready to concede is five per cent intervention funds and it will be named as National Intervention Funds which would be accessible by all the six geopolitical zones.

“If the conference concedes 5% intervention funds to the North, it means technically we have voted funds for Boko Haram. We will be saying insurgency is the right way to live as citizens.

“We have had insurgency; invasion devastation and war in the South-East, Zaki-Biam, Gabramatu Kingdom, and Odi, there were no intervention funds to rebuild these areas. We are saying the intervention funds should be for all the zones.

“All the leaders and delegates from the South have agreed that it is either National Intervention Funds or nothing else.”

•Text courtesy of The Nation. Photo shows Kutigi.

Source: News Express

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