NIGERIA: Controversy Trails Conference Allowance as N1.4m is Paid per Delegate

Controversy has continued to trail the sitting, accommodation and feeding allowances paid to the delegates to the ongoing National Conference, as some of the delegates claimed that they received N1.4million  and not N4 million per delegate as widely reported.
Also,  Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Spain and a delegate to the conference, Ambassador Maman Yusuf, has called for the inclusion of the June 12 political impasse as one of the agenda for national reconciliation.
Similarly, northern states governors will Tuesday meet to adopt a conference agenda for the three geo political zones of the North.
This is coming as the National Chairman of Labour Party, (LP) Dan Nwanyanwu, has condemned the gang up of ethnic agenda for the conference.
THISDAY gathered that the delegates received bank alerts of the deposits to their various bank accounts.
The Assistant Secretary of the conference, Prof. Yakubu Modibo, had last week requested all the delegates to furnish the secretariat with their respective bank accounts to enable it pay some allowances to them.
He further said payment of the allowances to the delegates would be paid in installments. But THISDAY was told by some of the delegates that what they received through the bank alerts was N1.4 million.
“I got an alert from my bank and what was paid was N1.4 million. I don’t know what it was for, whether it is for accommodation or sitting allowance.
When we meet on Monday (today) at the plenary, then some of us will ask questions. We thought that the conference allowance was N4 million. This was what we read in the newspapers,” a delegate told THISDAY.
According to another delegate, “If what the Assistant Secretary Finance said, that we would be paid in two installments, then we  should expect a bank alert of N2 million and not N1.4million. As we receive a bank alert of N1.4 million for two weeks, then it means that the monthly allowance for the delegates is N2.8 million per delegate, but we wait till Monday for explanation.”
Meanwhile, delegates to the conference will tomorrow resume plenary after a short adjournment with a debate and adoption of the rules of procedure for the conference.
A statement issued yesterday by the Assistant Secretary, Media and Communication,  Mr.  Akpandem James, said  the delegates will  subsequently commence debate of the president’s address delivered at the inauguration of the conference last week?
He said the conference had to adjourn in order to allow them study the various working documents that were supplied (to them) on Tuesday, shortly after the inaugural sitting.
“On resumption tomorrow (today), delegates will debate and adopt the rules of procedure for the conference and subsequently commence debate of the president’s address delivered at the inauguration of Monday.
He said among the working documents already with delegates are the, Report of the Constitutional Conference, 1995 (Containing the Draft Constitution) Vol 1, Report of the Constitutional Conference, 1995 (Containing the Resolutions and Recommendations) Vol 2,  Report of the Political Bureau (March, 1987).
Others are the Main Report of the National Political Reform Conference, 2005, Implementation Guide of the National Political Reform Conference, 2005,  Report of the Presidential Committee on Review of Outstanding Issues from Recent Constitutional Conferences (Main Report) July 2012,  Report of the Presidential Committee on Review of Outstanding Issues from Recent Constitutional Conferences (Executive Summary) July 2012, Policy Recommendations of the Presidential Committee to Review Outstanding issues from recent Constitutional  Conferences July 2012 and President Goodluck Jonathan’s speech on the occasion of Nigeria’s Centenary Celebrations.
The delegates also got copies of Jonathan’s speech at the inauguration of the National Dialogue Advisory Committee (October 7, 2013), President Goodluck Jonathan’s speech at the inauguration of the 2014 National Conference of the People of Nigeria (March 17, 2014), the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and  the Draft Rules of Procedure for the conference.
James said two more documents – the draft Rules of Procedure for the conference and the 1999 Constitution had also been supplied to the delegates on Thursday.
At the inaugural sitting presided over by the Chairman of Conference, Hon. Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, delegates agreed that the second stanza of the National Anthem should be adopted as the opening and closing prayer for all sittings of the conference. Faith-based prayers were ruled out.
Delegates also agreed that except for very special cases of physical incapacity and serious health concerns, sitting arrangement in the chamber of the conference should be in alphabetical order. Although a delegate raised the issue of allowances for aides of delegates, it did not achieve popular acclamation.
However, Ambassador Yusuf told THISDAY that for a thorough national reconciliation, the June 12 political impasse of 1993 should form part of the issues to be discussed at the plenary session of the conference.
According to him, “We should elevate the June 12 question to a process of furthering national reconciliation and deepening democracy. We should seek to recreate a pan Nigerian agenda for development, accountability and rule of law. That should be the cliché for neo June 12 as part of Nigerian project from now on otherwise we stagnate that landmark event in our national history.”
Also, Nwanyanwu has condemned the meetings of the various geo-political zones to harmonise agenda for the conference. He was reacting to the formation of the Northern Delegates’ Forum co-chaired by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) Chairman, former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomasie and Prof. Jerry Gana.
According to the LP chairman who also is a delegate, “We are ready to commence work in earnest and we are hopeful to have discussions on the conference begin on a positive note. There are some areas of the rules that need to be fine-tuned and amended so that we can hit the ground running on the main objective of the conference.
On the issue of some underground moves  by some delegates based on religious and ethnic grouping, Chief Nwanyanwu said such meetings are unnecessary and will not be given any relevance under the present dispensation.
Also, the chairman of SURE-P in Imo State, Hon. Longers Anyanwu, has expressed hope that the conference which is coming at the auspicious time when Nigeria is marking its 100 years of existence as a country, would surely put to corrections some of the errors observed in the past constitution while upholding the good ingredients that previous constitutions captured.
According to Anyanwu, “The government has passed the ball to the people of this country,  it is now left to delegates to play their own role that will be recorded in history.
He  challenged members to take advantage of their nomination into the conference to write their names in history as those who are “fighting for the existence and unity of one Nigeria not to be recorded as those who will use their position to fight against Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, some delegates at the conference have urged Nigerians to take advantage of the conference’s, to offer useful suggestions that would enrich deliberations at the conference.
The delegates told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja yesterday that Nigerians should access the website and pass on their suggestions to them.
The spokesman of Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the idea of a website for the conference was well-thought out.
According to him, the world is now in the digital age where information is passed through the internet.
“One should even suggest to the conference secretariat that there should be dedicated e-mail for all the delegates on the website through which people can reach the delegates on certain issues.
“The public should be able to reach us because we are the citizens’ representatives.
“We should prove that it is very possible for appointed or elected leaders to serve the interest of Nigerians who elected them into their positions.
“So, Nigerians should have unhindered access to us, to push their issues to us for inclusion in our deliberations,’’ Odumakin said.
A delegate of the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations, Mr. Steve Aluko, said the website would give the public access to information about the conference and the delegates.
Aluko, an Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), suggested that the contacts of every delegate should be published on the website.
According to him, it would enable the people, particularly, the major stakeholders, the opportunity to monitor and also give their inputs into the agenda of the conference.
“The people we claim to be representing should have our phone numbers, email, twitter and facebook addresses.
“By this, those who nominated us can contact us on any issue they feel we should canvass for or stand against at the conference,’’ Aluko said.
The Secretary-General, Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), Mr. Isaac Ighure, said the website was going to be a mutual benefit to the delegates and the general public.
Ighure said the platform would make it easy for the public to have an indepth knowledge of issues that the delegates would be discussing about them and the country.
“I also believe that with so much information at delegates’ disposal via the website, we will be able to make informed decisions.
“The public will want to get in touch with their delegates and make suggestions on issues they consider necessary.
“They (public) may also want to advise the delegates on issues they believe they have not been represented well.
“I believe, in all, this is going to contribute positively to the deliberations when we resume plenary.
“I am sure the delegates also stand to benefit immensely from contributions, suggestions and words of advice which they are likely to get from those who chose them,’’ Ighure said.

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