A major crisis appears imminent in the ongoing National Conference as the Organised Labour Movement and Civil Society Organisations on Thursday opposed the decision of the confab leadership to strip delegates of powers to appoint principal officers of committees that would be constituted.
They, therefore, demanded “the restoration of the original decision of the plenary session that committees should choose their leaders”.
This development is coming barely a day after the CSOs, led by a legal practitioner, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), protested the reversal of the decision on appointment of principal officers.
Some delegates representing the labour and CSOs had also voiced their objection to the change when it was announced on March 31. The House at plenary voted in favour when Justice Idris Kutigi put the decision to vote.
The PUNCH recalls that delegates had, during a plenary of March 24, voted and empowered themselves to appoint leadership of the committees, while allowing principal officers of the conference to only constitute the committees.
Delegates were also allowed to select three of the 20 approved committees to serve.
But the decision was later upturned after the Committee of ‘50 wise men’ (as they are fondly called), which was picked by the conference leadership to help solve the problem over voting patters, had extended its mandate by reviewing the decision and altering it.
The Chairman of the conference, Justice Kutigi, had explained that the change became necessary after it was observed that there was the need to ensure that committee leadership achieved geo-political and gender spread.
But the coalition of Labour and CSOs, at a press briefing, addressed by the President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Abdulwahid Omar, President of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, Bobboi Bala Kaigama and Falana, held at the conference venue, distanced themselves from the decision and accused the leadership of manipulation.
Omar said the protest letter was not read before the delegates and wondered why Justice Kutigi had hidden the letter away from them.
He said, “The decision for committees to select/elect their officers was validly and unanimously arrived at on March 24, 2014, and ought not to be changed without recourse to the general house.
“The Committee of 50 acted in violation of their brief since their mandate was to determine what should constitute a majority vote in the absence of a consensus and not to do other things. Yet, the same committee acting, in concert with the conference leadership reversed the decision on the election or selection of committee chairmen and their deputies.
“The committee’s recommendations on the issue of presiding officers of the committees, therefore cannot, and should not, stand. This scenario of a few privileged people tinkering with the decision of a whole House is nothing but dictatorship and tyranny of a few. If it is allowed to stand, it may become a feature of the conference. One of the reasons for convening this conference is to deepen democracy and not to reinforce impunity.
“The reversal of the right of the committees to elect/select their officers directly is an affront to democracy as well as a violation of the right of delegates to freely choose their presiding officers. We must warn that this seemingly innocuous act sends out dangerous signals and is capable of raising credibility issues in subsequent decisions.”
Falana had in the petition, which he signed with members of the CSOs, said the action of the conference leadership undermined the tenets of democracy.
They expressed concern that the reversal “may inadvertently entrench the practice of the emergence of some sort of super delegates, who can take decisions on behalf of and or even opposed to the views of majority of the delegates.”
Others who signed the petition were Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Festus Okoye, Dudu Manuga and Jaye Gaskia on behalf of other delegates.
The petitioners said, “We are concerned with the way and manner the Committee of 50 went out of its terms of reference to propose to the conference the reversal of a decision earlier made with respect to committees of conference having the right to elect their own presiding officers. This earlier decision was unanimously adopted by the delegates in the plenary during the discussion of rules and procedures of conference on Monday March 24 2014.
“We therefore wish that our objections be put on record for historical purposes and that the conference leadership is now saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that constituencies other than regional, like women, youth, people with disabilities, professional groups, labour and civil society are all represented in the leadership of the committees.”
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