A major crack that might truncate the ongoing national conference has emerged, with delegates from the Northern part of the country alleging betrayal, rejecting some decisions reached at plenary and walking out of the consensus-building arrangement instituted by leaders of geo-political zones, PREMIUM TIMES can report today.

The National Consensus Building Group, which had three members each from each of the six geopolitical zones, was formed to reduce bickering and rally members across regions to support popular recommendations of the Conference.

Documents obtained by this newspaper indicate that Ijaw leader, Edwin Clark; a former Minister of Finance, Olu Falae; a former Minister of Communications, Ike Nwachukwu; a former Minister of Information, Jerry Gana, Chairman of Daar Communications, Raymond Dokpesi; and a former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie, were the initial conveners of the forum.

The membership of the group was soon expanded, with the leaders of the zones nominating three delegates each from their zones to form what became the National Consensus Building Group, which has so far held a number of meetings at Mr. Dokpesi’s Daar Communications Complex, Asokoro, Abuja.

During the meetings of the group, a decision was taken to compile and tabulate all recommendations adopted by committees of the Conference into a single document for ease of reference and to serve as working document that could be used to build consensus.

The document, which was titled, “Terms of Agreement of the Six Geo-Political Zones,” a source closed to the caucus said, was circulated to all members of the group and leaders of the zones.

But an influential northern delegate, Auwalu Yadudu, who was part of the National Consensus Building Group and who claimed to be speaking for other delegates from the North, has now disowned the consensus-building group and its document, while also serving notice that the north was pulling out of the arrangement.

In an undated letter to Mr. Dokpesi, one of the conveners of the National Consensus Building Group, Mr. Yadudu accused other members of sidelining the north in drawing up the consensus document which is now being referred to as “fake constitution”.

Mr. Yadudu wrote, “Recall that this group has been convened on the direction of the leaders of the geo-political zones to look into the recommendations made by the Committees set up by the Conference with a view to cultivating the consensus of all delegates around contentious issues so as to facilitate their smooth passage at plenary.

“We have reviewed the above titled document. Following this, I have been directed by the leaders of our respective states and their critical stakeholders to bring to your attention the following as our response to both the idea of consensus building and the content of what has been circulated.

“Our delegations welcome and remain available to participate in the consensus-building process or effort that is conducted under an environment of mutual respect, which is genuinely inclusive and carried out in good faith.

“It is a well-known fact that the document circulated and the ‘agreements,’ ‘conclusions,’ reached have been drawn up and vigorously canvassed by some zones in concert to the exclusion of delegations from our states and other vital stakeholders.
“We view them more like ‘terms of surrender’ than proposals for discussion. We observe that the document conspicuously contains many vital issues not at all discussed or even recommended by any Committee.

“It seeks anticipatory approval for many other recommendations not yet considered and, rather curiously, ignored issues in respect of which the Conference has come to a decision at plenary.”

Mr. Yadudu went on to state that the authors of the document, without consultation, and in total disregard to the sensibilities of other critical stakeholders, went ahead to determine the number of states to be created and their names.

He went on to say that northern delegates would seek an official explanation from the leadership on why the document bore the Conference emblem and whether the leadership sanctioned the “conclusions” contained therein in line with the Conference rules.

“In view of the forgoing observations and reservations we have expressed regarding the ongoing consensus building process, I wish to state, with regrets, that our representatives have been directed to take no further part in the process,” Mr. Yadudu concluded.

On Saturday, Mr. Yadudu, reiterated that position in a statement he issued rejecting all the recommendations of the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government.
He alleged that some of the controversial issues approved at plenary were lifted out of a document he claimed was not prepared by a Conference committee.

He also accused the Conference leadership of bias, alleging that there was calculated plan to adopt all the recommendations made by the consensus-building group.

The statement reads: “The Northern Delegates Forum met on 3/7/2014 and reviewed what transpired at plenary. After an exhaustive review, delegates adopted the following resolutions:
“We note that decisions have been arrived at in total disregard of the Procedure Rules, 2014 in respect of issues such as removal of the list of local governments from the constitution, local government councils financing, adoption of state constitution and a motion to adopt referendum and state constitution.

“The chairman refused flatly to recognize several members who had indicated intention to raise a point of order in respect of the method of arriving at decisions by voice vote. This is contrary to Order XI which provides as follows: All decisions of the conference at plenary and committee stage shall be reached by consensus or in the absence of that the chairman shall at his discretion adjourn proceedings to allow for further consultations, in the event of failure, to reach a solution it shall be decided by a vote of three quarter majority.”

Mr. Yadudu further alleged that the Conference Secretariat was selective in its decision on the amendments to be taken, adding that amendments suggested by some key Northern delegates were ignored.

He accused the leadership of deciding on a different outcome against what was voted for by delegates when questions were put to the house.

“We consequently call for the rescissions of all decisions of the Conference arrived at plenary today, July 3, 2014 in total disregard and violation of the Procedure Rules, 2014,” Mr. Yadudu said.

This breakdown in relationship among delegates is coming barely two weeks to the end of the conference and ahead of the consideration of the report of the Committee on Devolution of Power, considered by many as the most important at the Conference.

A delegate from the North, who requested not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, told PREMIUM TIMES that majority of Northern delegates have agreed to boycott the Conference if it continues to adopt recommendations that negate the interest of the region.

A delegate representing the Newspapers Publishers Association of Nigeria, Ishaq Modibbo, had on Monday drawn the attention of the conference to media reports, which he said, questioned the integrity of the Conference leadership.

Mr. Modibo had said two reports by Daily Trust newspaper accused the Deputy Chairman, Bolaji Akinyemi, of lobbying Northern delegates to pave way for the smuggling in of a demand for a new Constitution in the Conference final report.

He also drew the attention of delegates to another publication in a section of the media suggesting that the leadership of the conference was trying to force a geo-political zoning arrangement on the country.

“Mr. Chairman, I want to urge that the leadership should come out and clear its name from the allegations contained in the newspaper reports,” Mr. Modibbo had said.

The motion polarized the Conference and pitched delegates from the South and others from minority groups in the North against their counterparts from the core North.

Against calls by Southern delegates, including Sergeant Awuse from the South-South and Mike Ahamba from the South-East, vocal Northern delegates like Haruna Yerima and Mr. Yadudu insisted on having Mr. Akinyemi clear his name on the floor of the Conference.

To douse tension, the Chairman, Idris Kutigi, called all those who had something to say about the alleged smuggling in of a fake draft constitution into the conference, to speak up.

At that point, Mr. Akinyemi, Ibrahim Coomassie and Raymond Dokpesi, who were all mentioned in the publication, explained their roles in the raging controversy, after which it became clear that the leadership was innocent of the allegations against it.