THE Secretariat of the National Conference, on Thursday in Abuja, released the Draft Rules of Proceedings to guide the conduct of the delegates to the conference.
The draft rules would be adopted by the delegates on Monday, the Conference’s Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications, Mr. Akpandem James, told the News Agency of Nigeria.
James said on Thursday, “The Draft Rules and the 1999 Constitution have been ready since 6 a.m. and we have made them available to the delegates to study.
“However, it is only a draft; it is going to be debated clause by clause by the delegates on Monday. If they (delegates) adopt it, then it becomes the Rules guiding the conference.
“But if there is any clause they feel should be amended or rejected, then they will decide at the plenary on Monday.
“What we are trying to do as a secretariat is to make the delegates as comfortable as possible to ensure smooth proceedings throughout the conference.”
The conference had adjourned on Tuesday, barely 24 hours after its inauguration, for the secretariat to formulate the rules to guide its proceedings.
Some of the delegates confirmed on Thursday that they had already collected copies of the Draft Rules and the 1999 Constitution.
They also said that they had begun studying the “voluminous” reports of previous conferences that were given to them at their inaugural meeting on Tuesday.
Ex-Governor of Plateau State, Chief Fidelis Tapgun, who is a delegate to the conference, told NAN that delegates were already studying copies of the rules of procedures for the plenary and the constitution.
Tapgun said that the procedures would have to be debated and adopted first before the plenary could really commence business on Monday.
“The documents are the Report of the Political Bureau and the past Constitutional Conferences set up by (Olusegun) Obasanjo, (Ibrahim) Babangida and (Sani) Abacha. We often see that committees are set up and nothing is done with their reports. But we think that this time round, the President is determined that we would look at all the past reports and put them in one paper that will be useful to this country,” Tapgun said.
According to him, the documents are needed by the delegates as references that will guide them in their proceedings.
He added, “We are going to continue making references to them so that we are properly guided and not work at cross purposes.
“There were certain things that were raised in those reports that were not implemented in the past, which we feel if implemented, may help.
“We will also see their relevance and see if they are relevant to our present conference, we will see how we can raise them again.”
Spokesman for the Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the documents would give delegates an insight into the past.
“The documents can be useful in terms of giving insights into what has happened and giving foresight to where we should be,” Odumakin said.
He, however, said that the documents were archival materials.
“The Reports of the Abacha and Obasanjo Political Reform Conferences were the kind of things packed in those big bags. It is part of the challenges we are facing as a nation; the world has gone beyond giving bags,” he said.
President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the 492-member National Conference on Monday while it held its inaugural plenary on Tuesday.
Our correspondent learnt on Thursday that if the delegates agreed, they would on resumption on Monday resolved to steer clear of any debate considered as capable of affecting the unity of the country.
With the refusal of the All Progressives Congress to be part of the conference, 490 members as against the 492 intended are expected to seat on Monday.
The Interim National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed, on Thursday told our correspondent that his party would not have a rethink.
“We have moved on already. We are not thinking about the conference anymore,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, a non-governmental organisation, on Thursday, urged the Federal Government to provide devices that would aid movement of delegates with physical challenges at the conference.
The Executive Director of the centre, Mr. David Anyaele, said that the government should provide lift and ramp and other devices that would enable the physically challenged to move freely at the conference.
He said that without the facilities, such delegates might be marginalised as they might not be able to compete with able-bodied delegates in getting their opinions captured.
“Delegates with disabilities at the conference are very small with little or no voice,” he said.
He claimed that there had not been a legal framework to protect citizens with physical challenges against discrimination, neglect and harmful practices.
The CCD boss said, “Sections 15 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution, even as amended, are silent on discrimination on the grounds of disability; this conference provides a platform to address this human rights abuse.
“We demand a stop to all forms of discrimination and harmful practices against disabled persons.
“We call on delegates from the civil society groups to take adequate steps to ensure the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.
“We also call on the Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation to take appropriate measures to create equal opportunities for all at the conference.”
Anyaele urged the Senate to expedite action on the passage of the Nigerian Disability Bill to reduce discrimination, exclusion and isolation of Nigerians with physical challenges.
He noted that the House of Representatives had passed the bill, and that the bill was awaiting passage by the Senate and harmonisation by the two chambers.
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