The leadership of the ongoing National Conference on Monday in Abuja removed the power it gave to delegates to appoint their chairmen and vice chairmen at the committee level.
This followed a motion by Mr Muhammed Kumaila (North-East) that the position taken by the plenary on Order XII of the Draft Rules of Procedure be rescinded.
The rule had proposed that the Chairman in consultation with the Vice-Chairman and the Secretary should choose the committee chairmen and secretaries.
It reads: “There shall be a Selection Committee consisting of the six principal officers of the conference who shall be responsible for the final placement into committees.
“Members are encouraged to indicate which Committee they desire to serve in; provided that the power of the final placement of delegates shall lie at the discretion of the Selection Committee.”
At its sitting on March 20, an amendment to the Rule was proposed from the floor that committees’ members should select chairmen and deputy chairmen from among themselves.
Arguments for and against the proposal were canvassed by many delegates and when the Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi (rtd) put it into a voice vote, it was approved.
Moving a motion to rescind the decision on Monday, Kumaila, said the 50-man consensus committee set up by the leadership identified “inequality in the nomination of delegates between different groups and sections”.
“The committee identified the inequality as one of the major reasons that brought about the difficulties to easily arrive at acceptable voting figure for decisions at the conference.
“Allowing members to elect their chairmen and deputies could bring up an unintended scenario where a majority of chairmen or deputies may come from a particular group or section.
“This may not have the confidence building process necessary for delegates from all sections to be part of in order to arrive at mutually agreed consensus on issues,” he said.
According to him, the consensus group agreed that the conference should conduct its affairs in a manner that engenders confidence building between groups and sections.
“Appointment of chairmen and deputy chairmen in a fair and balanced way that reflect the demography represented in this conference, will facilitate the confidence building process among delegates,” he said.
Kumaila said the committee brought the motion to plenary to explain the need to re-visit the rule and to seek the support and approval of all delegates to amend it.
He, therefore, moved that the position taken on Order XII of the Rules of Procedure be rescinded.
According to him, the selection committee made up of principal officers should be given the power to appoint the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the committees.
“The selection committee shall have regard for competence and capacity of the person to be so appointed to discharge the functions of that office.
“The selection committee should ensure that a chairman or a deputy chairman be appointed from each state of the federation and the FCT.
“No state from where a chairman is appointed should have a deputy chairman appointed from the same state,” Kumaila said.
The motion was seconded by Mr Orok Duke, representing South-South.
However, a counter motion was moved by Mr Ebuchukwu Ezike, representing the Civil Society and was seconded by Mr Jaye Gaskiya of the same group.
Ezike said: “This issue was not one of the mandates given to the 50-man committee.
“At the last meeting before the chairman asked for our permission to select the 50 wise men and women to look at the contentious issue, we had already resolved that the committees should elect or select their chairmen and deputies.
“This is a subversion of the will of the delegates.
“I, therefore, move a motion that the issue which has already been resolved by the conference stands.
“Mr Chairman, if you have reserved a matter and it is not one of the reasons for which you requested the attention of the conference to resolve, why bringing it up,’’ Ezike said.
Contributing, Gaskiya said: “We need to avoid a situation where people are going to be selected behind the delegates, they are going to subvert the conference.”
Explaining the rationale behind rescinding the decision, the Vice Chairman, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, said the leadership was trying to avert a future problem.
However, following continuous interjection by delegates, Akinyemi put it into a voice vote and ruled in favour of those who supported the original motion that leadership should select committee heads.
“If we see a problem coming, I thought we owe it to you to bring it to your attention. One committee does not know what the other committee may be doing.
“You may then end up in a situation where 10 committees acting independently will appoint chairmen from the same zone and the problem will end up here.
“You could have the women being marginalised; you could have the youth being marginalised because you are all acting independently.
“I think if we want to find solutions to the problems of this country and we are not to be doing this lopsidedness in appointment,” he said.