The bomb blast in the Federal Capital Territory early Monday morning that killed dozens of people and wounded several others dominated discussions on Monday as delegates resumed sitting at the on-going National Conference holding in Abuja.
As soon as the opening prayer was said and delegates took their seats, Conference Chairman and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, retired Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, asked delegates to rise for a one-minute silence in honour of the victims of the blast.
Immediately this was completed, Barrister Dan Nwanyanwu of the Labour Party raised a motion on what he called issue of urgent national importance. It was not lost on the members of the Conference what the issue was.
He drew the attention of the delegates to the bomb blast and lamented, “I think there is conspiracy against Nigeria and the Nigerian people; there must be an enemy within.”
He urged the Conference to immediately react to the incident by urging the necessary security agencies involved in the fight against terrorism to maximize their efforts in the war against innocent killing of people across the country.
The motion, seconded by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, was however overtaken by a written motion hitherto submitted to the Conference Chairman. It was sponsored by Is’haq Modibbo Kawu and 19 others.
“Whereas the preponderance of the security breaches has been in the north although security is a national issue;
“Whereas in the last two months the security breaches have escalated in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states where over 20 villages have been completely razed down and thousands of people killed including school children in spite of emergency rule which has been in existence for almost one year.
“Whereas in the north east the problem is Boko Haram, in the north west, it is armed banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping of young women more particularly in Zamfara, Jigawa, Katsina and Kaduna states.
“Whereas in the north central, we have ethno-religious and herdsmen and farmers conflicts which have led to the sacking of several villages, destruction of properties, displacement of people and killing of thousands of people in Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
“Whereas the Conference notes that Nigerian security forces have put up a lot of efforts to bring the insurgency, armed conflicts and banditry under control; and whereas in spite of the efforts of the security forces, the situation has continued to escalate.”
The prayers contained in the motion and which were all adopted by the Conference included condemnation of the activities of the perpetrators of the heinous crimes;
“That the Conference is concerned about the continuous deterioration of the security situation and calls upon the federal government to take urgent, drastic action and concrete steps to arrest and immediately bring an end to these atrocities.
“That all necessary measures be put in place to use proportional and non-excessive force to deal with the situation and safeguard the life, property and well-being of innocent civilian population in all areas affected.
“In particular, the federal government and other stakeholders should commence the immediate implementation of all actionable recommendations made to it by various committees such as the Gaji Galtimari, Kabiru T. Turaki, Borno/Yobe Elders, etc.
“That the federal government should immediately commence a process of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas.”
The motion, seconded by Hannatu Ibrahim also received inputs from other delegates. For instance, Femi Falana asked for immediate collation and implementation of other reports not mentioned in the prayers.
Other sponsors of the motion were: Professor Jerry Gana; Ibrahim Coomassie; Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu; Dr. Magdalyne Dura; Senator Ibrahim Mantu; Hon Mohammed U. Kumalia; and Senator Adamu Aliero.
Others were Professor Auwalu Yadudu; Amb Ibrahim Mai Sule; Professor Iyorcha Ayu; Senator Jack Tilley Gyado; Lt. Gen. Jeremiah Usen, Senator Ibrahim Ida; Hon Terseer Tsumba; Ibrahim Bunu; Maj. Gen. Ike Nwachukwu; Chief Olu Falae; Chief Edwin Clark; and Brig. Gen. Geoffrey Ejiga.
Before the adoption of the motion and the prayers sought by the sponsors, Olawale Okunniyi of the Pro-National Conference (PRONACO) suggested that a committee be set up by the Conference to closely look into security issues that have resulted in several deaths.
Although his position was not acceptable to other members, Okunniyi said the safety of the country was paramount because, “if you don’t have a country, there is no way you can have a conference.”
Chief Edwin Clark whose son was kidnapped two weeks ago said it was imperative that the Conference sent a message to the federal government on the way forward because the country was no longer safe.
He noted, “I think the issue of my son that was kidnapped is very small now. What is happening in Nigeria is a national issue. Nigerians are being killed day by day. We have a duty to look into this issue and not to play politics with it. It is a national calamity.”
Clark admonished the Conference to know that the existence of Nigeria as a nation would depend on what delegates do with the opportunity the National Conference has offered them.
“We have no other country to go to,” he added, “we hear everyday 200 people being killed, and we show no concern; we sit down here deliberating, what are we deliberating about? This Conference must send a message to government.”
The High Chief went very emotional when he suggested that his daily lunch be monetized and the money sent to take care of those who escaped the bomb blast.
Shortly after the adoption of the prayers contained in the motion, attention shifted to the committees whose membership and leadership were expected to be announced.
However, the chairman apologized that although a lot of work has gone into the compilation of committee membership, there were still some more work to be done before the list would be made public.
He said in view of that, it was necessary to stand down every issue regarding the committees; he said the sitting be adjourned until 4 pm on Tuesday when he was sure the final compilation would have been done and the membership and leadership of the different committees announced.
It was also agreed that based on suggestions and observations by delegates, committee members should be free to discuss issues that are related to the committees they serve and not limit themselves to areas listed under each committee.
Chief Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, had earlier suggested that only four instead of 20 committees be established and all the members distributed to serve while the time for deliberation and submission of reports should be lengthened. He was opposed by majority of the members.
Signed: AKPANDEM JAMES
ASSISTANT SECRETARY, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS