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Jonathan seeks alternative as FG needs N22bn for Confab election


Indications emerged at the weekend that the high cost of conducting elections and the absence of an enabling law have led to the rejection of ‘election’ as an option for determining delegates to the proposed National Conference.

Sources close to the committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, informed BusinessDay that as a result of the challenges, President Goodluck Jonathan at the weekend summoned all the committee members to a meeting in his office and pleaded with them to explore other options for determining delegates to the conference.

The committee is now saddled with the responsibility of working out a new process for “ selecting delegates” as well as modalities and criteria for such selection, our source said.

As a result, the committee will be meeting Tuesday and Wednesday this week to figure out the best way forward if the conference must take-off as scheduled, within the first quarter of 2014.

Receiving the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, chaired by Femi Okuronmu,  on the 18th of December, last year, the President said the  proposed National Conference would be taking off early this year, following the submission of the report.

BusinessDay gathered that President Jonathan, on receiving the 16 volume and over 4,000 page document, set up an in-house committee to begin a series of consultations with individuals and institutions, with a view to determining the possibilities of implementing the recommendations as contained in the report.

One of such early institutions consulted by the President was the Independent  National Electoral Commission (INEC) chaired by Attahiru Muhammadu Jega.

The INEC chairman was said to have informed the President that it would require over N22billion to conduct polls to elect delegates to the conference.

Jega also said  conducting election for delegates to the confab would make the exercise very difficult, especially considering that INEC would also conduct another general election soon.

 He also also pointed out that there was no enabling law for the conduct of the election of delegates to the conference under the 1999 Constitution as amended, where INEC derives its powers to conduct all existing elections in the country.

After weighing the options, President Jonathan decided to recall members of the Presidential Advisory Committee to work out alternative methods of determining delegates to the confab.

The President was said to be very reluctant to begin a new process of sending  a new bill to the National Assembly for the purpose of electing the delegates.

“When you consider the current political environment and the relationship between the President and members of the National Assembly, it was advised that it would not be expedient to do so now.