By Udora Orizu
The House of Representatives at plenary Wednesday, stepped down a motion to obtain the report of the 2014 National Conference with the purpose of including it in the ongoing constitutional amendment process of the National Assembly.
The House Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, who sponsored the motion, made reference to the reports of the 2014 National Conference and the report of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on True Federalism chaired by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, saying that it will address the mileage and challenges being faced in the union.
Moving the motion, Okechukwu said the House is aware that the federal hovernment instituted the National Conference on March 17, 2014 where about 492 delegates drawn from various segments, interest and professional groups of the Nigerian society brainstormed on how to build Nigeria into a more cohesive, viable and prosperous union.
He also noted that the conference made over 600 recommendations cutting across public service; devolution of powers and political restructuring; national security; trade and investment; energy; public finance and revenue generation; social welfare; politics and governance; and electoral reforms, among others.
Shortly after moving the motion, the Deputy Speaker of the House, Idris Wase, in his contribution, faulted the motion, saying it was procedurally wrong.
He said that the committee had sent out notice, requesting inputs by way of memoranda from Nigerians.
The Deputy Speaker explained that it was obligatory for owners of the documents to submit them to the committee if they considered it necessary.
Reacting, the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, asked Okechukwu if he was okay with the Deputy Speaker’s input even though the prayer of the motion was commendable.
Responding, Okechukwu agreed to withdraw it but added that the documents should be made available to the committee in the course of its sitting.
Speaking to journalists later, Okechukwu stated that he would ensure that the document was obtained at the committee level.
He said: “The motion for me is an additional and persuasive authority for us to have that literature dialogue by reputable Nigerians and if we are truly the representatives of the people, we ought to have the documents. There isn’t anything in that conference report that cannot address the mileage, challenges we are facing in our union.
“As the deputy speaker believes that what we are looking for in Sokoto is in our sokoto (trousers), which means we have the responsibility of having the report. So if he has taken that obligation then it’s his responsibility to make sure it’s part of what we address in the constitution review. That document has become a document of the presidency and it should be made an official document of the parliament.
“The Speaker stepped it down because he was believing that the Deputy Speaker’s advice suffices. I was of a different view that we should have the motion. But the Speaker in his wisdom was of the view that the Deputy Speaker whose responsibility it is to get those documents, if he has obligated himself to have those documents nothing is wrong with it, then we can have it through him. I will interrogate that at committee level if he doesn’t.”
Also speaking to journalists, the Leader of the House, Ado Doguwa, said there was no opposition to the motion, but that it was procedurally wrong to ask the House to specifically call for the documents.
He added that the motion was unnecessary as the committee had already been mandated to do its work.
Doguwa said: “I don’t think there was anything against the motion of Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu. What actually happened was that we all agreed that he was offering a very good piece of advice. What he was offering was something you can really believe is essential in the El-Rufai APC report and the 2014 national conference report. These are essentially historic documents that may be very much of help to the constitutional review process at the moment. All we were saying is that the procedure on which he came up was quite unconventional.
“For a committee like the Constitution Review Committee, which was already out there working and has also made itself available for all the agencies, institutions, civil society organizations, the media and every other Nigerian, has been given the opportunity to come up by the normal memoranda submission to the process. So, you don’t expect any instrumentality of the House by way of motion or resolution to further entrench that mandate already given to the committee. We felt it was superfluous, not necessary but the piece of advice he offered was noted.
“The chairman of the committee was there and myself being the deputy chairman was there. We have taken it as a very good observation and we will definitely get it used in the process of the constitutional review. But it needed not to be presented by way of motion or seeking the resolution of the House before any other person is asked to do what is naturally expected to do. Do you expect us to pass a motion before a civil society organization now comes up with its own civic responsibility? Do you expect us to pass a motion before a political party knows that they are expected to submit a memorandum to a Constitutional review committee? Basically, no.
“The motion was unnecessary but coming up with a very good piece of advice which he would have ordinarily submitted at the committee level to which he’s a member. But nobody argued against him. It was not against him as a member. Nobody also argued the idea in the context of the motion he raised. But the procedure was wrong and we should not be misled.”