• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Lawyers reopen debate on National Conference proposal…

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Displeased with the inability of the two leading presidential candidates in next month’s election to explain to Nigerians during their campaigns how they are going to implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, some lawyers across the country are reopening debate on the proposals made by the conference.

The lawyers, who claimed to be motivated by national interest and also need to justify the efforts of the delegates and over N7 billion spent on the Justice Idris Kutigi-led 2014 National Conference, are calling for a debate on the proposals of the conference between President Goodluck Jonathan, of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of the All Progressives Congress (APC). 

Some of the issues fiercely debated by the delegates who passed more than 600 resolutions and produced a 10,335-page report included: the contentious revenue sharing formula, the divisive political structure of the country, removal of immunity clause to encourage accountability, creation of additional states, retention of Bi-cameral Legislature, among others.

Independent Candidacy was also advocated for by the 2014 Conference. It recommends that every Nigerian who meets the specified condition in the Electoral Act should be free to contest elections as an independent candidate.

Speaking on the need for the presidential debate on the implementation of the recommendations of the Confab, Robert Ekule, a Lagos-based lawyer, said a debate that would focus on the recommendations of the last Conference should be called between the two leading candidates live on national television for Nigerians to take better decisions with their votes.

“It is sad that Jonathan and Buhari are not making the recommendations of the last Conference campaign issues; they should be compelled to tell us what they would do with it if elected. The APC’s candidate is not even talking about it at all. Nigerians should be wearied of any presidential candidate who does not want to talk about it because whether we progress or not as a united country, is based on the implementation of that recommendations,” he told BD SUNDAY.

He also decried the non-profitability of Bicameral Legislature been practice in the country since the First Republic, advising that Nigerians should scrutinise its retention as recommended by the 2014 Conference because its practice has brought more woes than gain to the country.

Speaking on the removal of immunity clause as recommended by the Conference, Jonathan Ikiebe, senior partner, Ikiebe & Co, explained that the protection against criminal or civil litigation or protection granted some political office holders in Nigeria namely, the President, Vice President, Governors and their Deputies, as provided in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, was made in order to protect the occupier of such office from legal proceedings that could distract them from focusing on governance.

“This statutory provision has been abused by those it seeks to protect, hence, there is need for us to take a second look at it. That was why the delegates at the National Conference after careful consideration, recommended that the immunity clause be removed from the Constitution”, Ikiebe said.

Political office holders, according to him, should be properly held accountable while in office through the removal of the immunity clause should and also to reduce corruption and curtail other brazen acts of impunity, mismanagement or misapplication of public funds.

On Bi-cameral Legislature, he asked: “What is the utility of this system?  What value has it added in our national life? I believe that this system does not deserve to be retained. This is because; if the federating states maintain one House of Assembly, then what reason does the Federal Government have for constituting two legislative Houses?  What distinct function does the House of Representatives perform that the Senate does not perform?  In fact, the Senate performs more because it usually does the confirmation of major appointments. It is difficult to point to any function of the House of Representative made up of over 300 persons that is not being performed by the Senate of less than 110 persons”.

In support of the call for the removal of immunity clause, Bola Alabi, senior associate, Olujinmi & Akeredolu, said considering unfolding events in the country, the immunity clause has been subjected to abuse by certain public office holders who deep their hands in the till and engage in acts unbecoming of public officials.

He also kicked against the creation of new states. According to him, the fact that most states in the country are not viable enough to run their affairs as witnessed during the last review of minimum wage strengthens his argument; and that rather than create more states, efforts should be made to improve the internally generated revenue of the existing states in order to cater for the needs of citizenry.

It would be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan said during the inauguration of the Conference that it was being convened to engage in intense introspection about the political and socio-economic challenges confronting the nation and to chart the best and most acceptable way for the resolution of such challenges in the collective interest of all the constituent parts.

He also said that the coming together under one roof to dialogue and build a fresh national consensus for the amicable resolution of issues that still cause friction among the people must be seen as an essential part of the process of building a more united, stronger and progressive nation.

NATHANIEL AKHIGBE