Posted by News Express | 14 July 2014 | 2,695 times
Northern delegates to the on-going National Conference in Abuja have refused to shift ground on the contentious issue of resource control which has so far defied a solution at the talk shop. They resolved, at a meeting last night in Abuja, that the 13 per cent status quo on derivation, as it applies to oil producing states, should subsist.
The National Conference has stalled for nearly a week now over the decision to raise derivation from 13 to 18 per cent and also the recommendation to set aside five per cent each, for solid minerals development and reconstruction of the North, with emphasis on the North-East states that have been ravaged by insurgency.
“The consensus building effort had failed due to lack of good faith. So we are standing on our committee report which recommends 13 percent. A meeting of the committee of the “50 wise men” is likely to meet at 9am (today) where we will insist on this,” one of the delegates told Daily Trust last night.
The Committee on Devolution of Powers, in its report submitted weeks ago, had recommended that derivation be retained at 13 per cent.
However, when the report came up for discussion on Monday, there was fresh clamour for derivation to be reviewed upwards.
A committee of selected leaders from the six zones headed by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari was set up to look into the fresh demand and make recommendation.
But delegates who spoke to our reporter after the meeting said the meeting had rejected Gambari’s committee report which reviewed derivation upwards to18%.
“We initially decided to accept it because we don’t want to be seen as reversing our elders’ decisions. But since the Southern delegates rejected the proposed five percent fund for the North-East resuscitation, we have now resolved to adopt the whole recommendations of the devolution of power committee adopted,” one of the delegates said.
Meanwhile, indications emerged that the National Conference may again be extended by two weeks because of its inability to conclude its assignment by July 17, 2014 deadline.
The conference, inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan on March 17, was initially scheduled to last for three months, that is to end by June 17, but it was later extended by one month.
This extension will further shot up the financial implications of the conference. The federal government had earlier budgeted N7bn for the programme, which covers allowances of delegates, conference leadership, staff, logistics, among others.
If the conference is extended by two weeks, will now add extra N1.46 million each to the 462 delegates emolument. The four weeks extension had earlier added N2.9 million each to the delegates.
By this, every delegate at the end of the four and half-month programme would have drawn as much as N13 million each as monetised allowance for accommodation, transports and sittings.
This figure doesn’t include those allowance paid to the conference leadership comprising the chairman, his deputy, secretary and three assistant secretaries; the dozens of secretariat staff, security, logistics, among others.
According to the conference Work Plan, the consideration of reports of 20 standing committees would have ended by June 25 with the consideration of report of the committee on devolution of powers.
But endless horse trading and bickering by delegates while considering these reports had so far distorted the calendar, making it impossible to meet the deadline.
According to the Work Plan, deliberations on the report of the committee on devolution of powers, which has been dragging on for over a week now, instead of one day as scheduled, would have been done on June 25.
It was followed by the conference debate on the modalities of the implementation of its final report on June 26.
From June 27 to July 4, the conference is expected to draft its final report, according to the calendar, while delegates would consider the draft report in plenary between July 7 to July 10.
The secretariat would produce the final report and make it available for signing from July 14 to July 17. All this is no longer possible as the conference is more than two weeks behind schedule.
It is not even clear whether the two weeks extension expected to be granted may be enough for the conference to conclude its work, especially as delegates are bogged down by the contentious issues associated with the devolution of powers committee report.
For more than a week, the conference was stalled, forcing it to abruptly adjourn four times over the controversial issues of derivation formula, resource control, local government status, among others.
Efforts by leaders of the six geo-political zones to reach an agreement over the contentious issues have not produced the desired consensus despite long hours of consultations for four consecutive days.
When contacted, the Assistant Secretary on Media and Communications at the confab secretariat, Akpandem James, said the issue of extension of time doesn’t arise. “You see, there are only two issues remaining on the devolution of power committee. All other issues have been taken. These two issues may be resolved either tomorrow or by Wednesday,” he said.
Akpandem said delegates’ work ended with the endorsement of the report. “Delegates’ work ended with the report. The final report will be drafted by the secretariat and delegates will only come and endorse it before it s signed by the leadership of the conference,” he stated.
On when the final report would be ready, the conference spokesperson said that would be announced by the chairman in due course.
•Adapted from a Daily Trust report. Photo shows Confab Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi (with microphone) and his deputy, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi.
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