In Unison, Southern Senators Demand Implementation of 2014 Confab Report 

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  •  Ask president  to convene a meeting of governors, lawmakers, political leaders, CSOs to discuss report  
  • Urge National Assembly leadership to open debate on document to expedite implementation

Bassey Inyang in Calabar

In a display of unity, the Southern Senators’ Forum, saturday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately commence measures aimed at implementing the 2014 National Conference report.

Rising from a three-day conference in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, the senators from different political parties tasked President Buhari to immediately set up a platform for governors, members of the National Assembly, Houses of Assembly, political leaders, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders, to discuss the report’s implementation mechanism.  

The conference was convoked by the Peoples Democratic Party–led  administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. The All Progressive Congress, which was then in the opposition, had boycotted the conference, on which basis the current APC-led government has consistently maintained that it would not implement the report. Political analysts have, however, argued that the National Assembly could on its own take key recommendations of the conference as private member bills and pass them or include them as amendments in the ongoing constitution review exercise.

The position of the senators was contained in a four-point communiqué read by the chairman of the forum, Senator Hope Uzodinma, at the end of the conference themed: “National Unity and Restructuring.”

According to the communiqué, the forum asked the leadership of the National Assembly to also open debate on the same document so that the implementation thereof would be expedited.

The communiqué further stated that while the unity of the country could not be compromised, the forum believed that the principles on which the country was created by the founding fathers had been eroded, hence the need for a restructuring of Nigeria to create a new order, where equity, justice and peace would prevail.

Uzodinma said, “After presentation of papers, contributions and general brainstorming, it was resolved that Nigeria and Nigerians have come a long way. As such, it has become imperative and in the interest of all to live together as one united family under one indivisible and indissoluble country with justice, equity and fairness.

“While the unity of Nigeria should not and cannot be compromised under any circumstance, it has become apparent that the foundation upon which Nigeria was built at independence in 1960 has been eroded. There is a need to return to the original dream of true federalism, which was a product of negotiation, compromise and accommodation.” 

The retreat, the chairman said, witnessed the presentation of papers from prominent Nigerians on various topics, among them: “Sustaining National Unity in a Restructured Nigeria”, “Provisions for National Unity in the 1999 Constitution (Amended)”, “Between the Dreams of Pre-independence Nationalists and Restructuring: A Critical Look at the Past and Present” and the “Imperatives of Restructuring in Multi-Religious Nigeria.”

Uzodinma noted that the senators, who attended in their numbers, also engaged in robust deliberations on what they considered the best way to move Nigeria forward.

Key Recommendations of the 2014 Confab Report at a Glance!

Creation of 18 New States

The conference recommended the creation of 18 new states – three per geo-political zone. They include Apa, Edu, Kainji, Katagum, Savannah, Amana, Gurara, Ghari, Etiti (South East zone), Aba, Adada, Njaba-Anim, Anioma, Orashi, Ogoja, Ijebu and New Oyo. 

Resource Control/Derivation Principle/Fiscal Federalism

The conference held that assigning percentage for the increase in derivation principle, and setting up Special Intervention Funds to address issues of reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas ravaged by insurgency and internal conflicts as well as solid minerals development, require some technical details and consideration. 

Public Finance/Revenue Allocation

The conference noted that the sharing of the funds to the Federation Account among the three tiers of government should be done in the following manner: Federal Government – 42.5%, State Governments – 35% and Local Governments 22.5%

Forms of Government

The conference recommended the Modified Presidential System, a home-made model of government that effectively combines the presidential and parliamentary systems of government. The president shall pick the vice president from the Legislature and should select not more than 18 ministers from the six geo -political zones and not more than 30% of his ministers from outside the Legislature. 

Legislature

The conference proposed a Bi-cameral legislature, but noted that members should serve on part-time basis

Power Sharing/Rotation

The conference recommended that the presidential power should rotate between the North and the South and among the six geo-political zones while the governorship will rotate among the three senatorial districts in a state.

Local Government

Local Governments, the conference recommended, will no longer be the third tier of government. The federal and states are now to be the only tiers of government. States can now create as many local governments they want. The Joint State/Local Government Account be scrapped and in its place the establishment of a State RMAFC with representatives of Local Government and a Chairman nominated by the Governor. 

Immunity Clause

One of the critical issues discussed is the immunity clause and it was agreed that it should be removed if the offences attract criminal charges to encourage accountability by those managing the economy.

Independent Candidacy

To open up the political space, the conference recommended that every Nigerian who meets the specified condition in the Electoral Act should be free to contest elections as an independent candidate.

Governance

The creation of the office of the Accountant General (Director-General) of the Federation as a distinct and separate office from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federal Government was recommended. The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation shall oversee the accruals of revenue into and disbursement from the Federation Account as and when due; and shall administer these funds as required by the Constitution, while the office of the Accountant General of the Federal Government shall oversee the accounts of the Federal Government, the conference inferred. 

Anti-corruption

the conference proposed Special Courts to handle corruption cases in the light of undue prolongation in the trials and prosecution of corruption cases in the regular courts. 

Land Tenure Act

The Land Tenure Act, according to the conference, should remain in the Constitution but be amended to take care of certain concerns, particularly on compensation in Section 29 (4) of the Act to read “land owners should determine the price and value of their land based on open market value”.

National Anthem

The conference also proposed the re-introduction of the old National Anthem

Religion

The Conference recommended that would no longer be any government sponsorship of Christian and Muslim pilgrimages to the holy lands. It also resolved that churches and mosques should begin to pay tax to government.