Modalities for the Nigerian national conference formally kicked off Thursday with the release, by the federal government, of the nomination process and stakeholders expected to attend. The national conference, which shall hold in the nation’s capital, Abuja, will last three months.
According to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Anyim Pius Anyim, the conference shall have powers to discuss any subject matter except the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as a nation.
'Therefore, as far as the convening authority, President Goodluck Jonathan, is concerned, the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable, Anyim said.
The nomination of delegates to the conference starts Thursday and is to end by 20 February, 2014.
President Jonathan is expected to inaugurate the conference immediately the collation of the delegate list is concluded.
Anyim told journalists in Abuja that the national conference would have a total of 492 persons nominated from 27 clusters of stakeholders.
And out of the total figure of 492, President Jonathan is expected to directly nominate 181.
The 181 are to be nominated under six categories of stakeholders, including nomination of the secretariat to manage and run the affairs of the conference. The leadership of the conference, namely, chairperson, deputy chairperson and secretary, Anyim stated, must be Nigerians of “unimpeachable integrity”.
According to the details of the conference, released in Abuja, decisions at the conference shall be by consensus. But where consensus is not achievable, decisions shall be by 75 per cent majority.
The national conference shall advise the Nigerian federal government on the legal framework, legal procedures and options for integrating the decisions and outcomes of the national conference into the constitution and laws of the country.
The composition of the national conference indicates that three persons would come from each of the 36 states of the federation and one from the Federal Capital Territory, making the federating units the largest contributor of delegates to the conference.
The nomination process shall be based on Nigeria’s 109 senatorial districts (three per state and one for the FCTI. But the government insists that at least one nominee from each state must be a woman.
But the nomination process states that “where the State Governor fails to nominate, the President shall nominate the required number from the state.”
For the nation’s socio-political/cultural and ethnic nationality groups, 15 persons would be selected from each of the six geopolitical zones. The list of 90, the guidelines insist, “should reflect ethnic and religious diversities” and would be nominated by “Stakeholders”.
President Jonathan is to nominate 37 elder statesmen, one from each of the 36 states and the FCT.
Twenty-four delegates are to represent the Civil Society Organizations. These are to reflect national character and must be nominated by the stakeholders themselves. In addition, the Nigerian federal government would as well nominate 20 others, six of which must be women including six persons from the judiciary arm of government, six “outstanding” youths and role models. Each nomination must represent the six geopolitical zones.
Thirteen delegates would come from Nigerian professional bodies, eight from Nigerians in the Diaspora, two each from the five political parties that have representation at the National Assembly.
They include the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, All Progressive Congress, All Progressive Grand Alliance, Accord and Labour parties.
Two delegates each are expected to be nominated by stakeholders from Nigerian Newspaper Proprietors Association, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Broadcast Organization of Nigeria, Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Organized Private Sector.
Women groups are to nominate a total of 24 delegates. They include 12 from the National Council for Women Societies, six from Market Women Associations and six other slots to be shared by International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Nigeria), National Association of women Journalists and Women In Business.
Other interest groups to be represented at the Conference include traditional rulers each from the six geopolitical zones plus one from Abuja, 18 retired military and security personnel, that is six each from the military, police and the State security and National Intelligence Agency.
A total of 24 delegates, reflecting gender and geopolitical balance, are to be nominated, 12 each from two organised labour representatives - Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress.
Also, National Association of Nigerian Students and National Youth council of Nigeria would send six delegates each, to represent the six geopolitical zones.
Others nominations to the conference include six each from Christian and Muslim leaders, People Living With Disabilities, former Governors, the Nigerian Senators Forum, the House of Representatives Forum, Association of Former Speakers and former Local Government Chairmen.
Each of the six nominations from each stakeholder group must represent the six geopolitical zones.
In addition, the five National Academies have one slot each for Science, Engineering, Education, Letters and Social Sciences.
Mr. Anyim noted that the federal government had to proceed with implementing the reports of the Advisory Committee immediately because of “the calls by Nigerians from all works of life for us to proceed with the report of the Committee with utmost urgency, so that the nation can be through with the dialogue well ahead of the approaching political season.”
He said before taking the decision to accept the recommendations for immediate implementation, the government held advanced and extensive deliberations, before even deciding that the “official name for the conversation shall be The National Conference”.
Anyim stated: “the National conference shall advise the government of the legal framework, legal procedure and options for integrating their decisions and outcome in the constitution or any law of the country.
'The idea is that the Conference would decode and advise government on the next step after the conference.”
He explained that the nomination power of the Federal government is to make appropriate corrections in representation where the need arises.
Anyim added: “the Federal government would exercise their own rights of nominations after all other nominations had been collated so that if there is any imbalance, then the government can by their nomination try to balance that power. So, there won’t be a problem of one dominant ethnic nationality taking advantage of the minority within the state.”