Implement 2014 Conference Report to Avert Crisis, Delegates Tell Buhari

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• To make report a campaign issue
• S’West leaders: Our people may spurn 2019 polls

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Forum of Delegates of the 2014 National Conference has again urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government to immediately set a machinery in motion to implement the report of the 2014 National Conference as a means of resolving the problems plaguing the country.

The conference delegates said they would apply several strategies to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the conference, including getting the citizens to demand from political parties and their candidates their positions on the implementation of the report.
The demand by the conference delegates came just as the South-west bloc led by the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, said the Yorubas might insist on a new federal constitution as a basis for the conduct of the next general election in 2019.

Addressing the gathering at a meeting hosted by the founder of Daar Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, in Abuja, the chairman of the Forum and an elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, said the meeting was a private initiative of the former conference delegates to try and devise means of encouraging the implementation of the recommendations of the conference.
He said the conference report was divided into three categories, including policy matters, issues relating to legislative enactment and matters requiring constitutional amendments.

According Yakassai, the aspect of the conference recommendations that requires urgent attention is that dealing with constitutional amendment, adding that the National Assembly should use the opportunity of the ongoing constitutional amendment to utilise the report of the 2014 conference.
The keynote speaker at the meeting, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and one of the delegates of the 2014 National Conference, Chief Mike Ozekhome, said the present APC administration must not take Nigeria’s unity and indivisibility for granted by refusing to embrace ideas and suggestions that would bring about an acceptable federal structure for the country.

“The simple answer is that we need to go back to the pre-January 1966 true fiscal federalism. The over 600 recommendations of the distinguished Nigerian patriots, men, women and the youth, from all works and strata of life of 2014 National Conference must be immediately retrieved from the archives where they are gathering dust and spider cobwebs by this government, put on the front burner, and utilised meticulously for the purpose of re-engineering, retooling and reformatting this Nigerian contraption that is still not working,” he said.

Ozekhome described the present constitution of 1999 as a creation of the military Decree No 24 of 1999, adding that it is not a peoples’ constitution; does not enjoy the Nigerian peoples’ mandate, and so lacks legitimacy.
A leading member of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, the Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said the Yorubas have never departed from its belief in fiscal federalism as the best solution to the several problems facing the conference.

Odumakin, who said he was speaking the minds of other leaders from the South-west, said there are serious indications for the zone that the people want “the 2019 elections conducted on the basis of a new and truly federal constitution”.
He observed that many of the issues threatening the country corporate existence today would have become a thing of the past if the government had implemented the report of the conference.

“We therefore call on the executive arm of the government to initiate the process for the National Assembly to pick the 2014 conference report submitted to the immediate past legislative session for immediate implementation,” he said.
Odumakin said many of the problems plaguing the country today would have been resolved if the report of the National Conference was implemented.

He urged the National Assembly to immediately take the lead in setting in motion the process for the implementation of the report by including it in the ongoing Constitution amendment. He said the South-west can only participate in the 2019 general election if there is a new and truly federal constitution.
Speaking on the purpose of the summit, the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Mr. John Dara, said that the conference delegates felt it is timely to engage members of the executive and the legislature in fruitful dialogue to ensure that the conference report is utilised for constitutional amendment.

He noted that despite heated debates and arguments none of the delegates boycotted deliberations at the conference from beginning to the end.
Dara however regretted that the position reached at the conference considered to be the most representative have not been implemented thereby allowing the country to continue to be bedevilled by avoidable crisis.

For instance, Dara said the conference recommended what would have saved Nigeria from the clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
He said the conference recommended the gradual phasing out of cattle routes and grazing reserves and the need for ranching.
Apart from making adequate recommendations to fast-track the economy through resuscitation of the agriculture and promotion of trade and investment, the conference also recommended the decentralisation of political powers and even the economy in order to enhance productivity and efficiency.

According to him, the conference recommended measures to deal with issues of insecurity in the land.
On his part former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said the people of the South-east are seeking the enthronement of genuine fiscal federalism.
The politician warned that if the country fails to take urgent steps to do what is required there may be no Nigeria for all of us.
A former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, who spoke on behalf of delegates representing the North-central, urged the federal government to reconsider its stand and take steps to implement the conference recommendations.
He said any objective assessment of the composition of the 2014 conference would confirm that it was the most balanced and well thought out exercise.

Paul Bassi, a delegate from the crisis-ridden Borno State in the North-east, lamented that the war against insurgency has left the Christian-dominated Southern Borno so devastated as a result of an orchestrated plot to decimate the population.
“There is no development in Southern Borno. Houses are destroyed, highly devastated, no infrastructure, people are kidnapped. All pictures in the media are not true. I left my house in March 2014, up till now I have not gone back. I have been displaced,” he disclosed.
Bassi who said he is a member, Biu Elders’ Forum, said there is no truth in the claim by the federal government of rebuilding Southern Borno.
According to him, government’s attention was only being paid to the towns in Northern Borno, thus leaving his people to suffer untold hardship and deprivation.

“We are in a pathetic situation. There is no functional IDP camp; no school was reconstructed in Southern Borno. We want a state of our own, the Savannah state,” he demanded.
Hawa Shakarau from North-west said the zone would support resolutions that would make for the full implementation of the 2014 National Conference report.