World Bulletin / News Desk
Nigeria's national conference is resuming its plenary sessions on Monday after adjourning sittings for days to enable the 492 delegates to study reports of past constitutional meetings and set rules for seating and deliberations.
"Delegates have adopted a sitting arrangement. They agree that sitting should be on alphabetical order with special consideration for the physically challenged people, the elderly and those with peculiar ailments that require special sitting positions," conference spokesman Akpandem James told Anadolu Agency.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the much-anticipated national conference last Monday, bringing together 492 delegates from different segments of Nigeria.
The conference is being chaired by Idris Legbo Kutigi, a former chief justice and one of the few senior judges with an unblemished public record.
He has been deputized by Bolaji Akinyemi, a former foreign minister from Nigeria's southwestern region and a widely respected scholar of international relations.
Conference proceedings, held in the capital, Abuja, are expected to go on for three months.
Delegates are drawn from different ethno-religious and special interest groups, professional bodies and each of the country's 36 states.
Each delegate has been granted $75,000, totaling nearly $37 million, to cover expenses.
Government Secretary Anyim Pius Anyim has put the total cost of the conference at over $432 million.
Today's session may be rancorous as delegates debate what the conference secretariat calls "National Conference Procedure Rules," with which they were provided last Thursday.
Some delegates may seek to expunge certain draft rules that would enable the conference leadership to suspend for 14 days any delegate deemed to have used "foul or insulting" language when making submissions.
Equally controversial is Order 14, which empowers the secretariat to revoke the coverage license of any media outlet that publishes "unfair and offensive" material about the conference.
"The conference may withdraw approval to the representative of any media to attend the sitting of the conference if the medium publishes a report of the proceedings which the conference considers unfair, offensive and not a true reflection of what transpired," according to the draft rule read to AA by a delegate.
Local media says the rule violates Section 22 of Nigeria's constitution, which empowers the media to "uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter (2) and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people."
Some delegates, especially those from the civil rights community, may also take issue with a rule that obliges delegates representing a particular bloc to only speak at the plenary through their appointed representative.
Others might object to Order 11, which stipulates that "in case of failure to reach a resolution on a matter by consensus, it shall be decided by vote of three quarter majority."
Joe Okei-Odumakin, top civil rights campaigner and conference delegate, said the rule would make it almost impossible to reach a decision on any issue.
"The implication of this rule is that if those who want a particular agenda are able to get a 74-percent vote, they still would not have their way," she told AA.
"That means the minority will have their way instead. That is not democracy," she said.
"I prefer a situation where either a simple majority is required or, in the case of a very sensitive issue, a two-thirds majority should be the rule," the activist added.
Issues to be debated at the conference include fiscal federalism, state police, resource control, the parliamentary system of governance, secularism and the status of Sharia.Last Mod: 24 Mart 2014, 14:07