Delegates to the on-going National Conference took a major step on Thursday towards the amendment of the 1999 Constitution when they overwhelmingly voted for the removal of immunity clause as enshrined in the Constitution.
The clause, which has attracted unfavorable comments at every National or Constitutional Conferences, currently protects the President, Vice President; and state governors and their deputies from prosecution as long as they remain office.
However, except otherwise decided, by the resolution of the National Conference on Thursday, both the President and their deputies can now be dragged to court over criminal and civil cases.
The resolution was based on consideration of the report by the Committee on Economy, Trade and Investment headed by Hajiya Bola Shagaya with Fola Adeola as deputy chairman.
Conference also resolved that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation should be made to pay prevalent interest rates on duly delayed remittances to the federation account.
The resolution was meant to discourage late or non-remittance of money by the corporation into the Federation Account for allocation to the different tiers of government as demanded by law.
It was also resolved that government, the armed forces and the private sector should collaborate and invest in the development of a military industrial complex that can support Nigeria’s defence needs as the largest economy in Africa.
In a bid to attract patronage of goods produced in Nigeria, Conference urged the National Assembly to enact a law that would prohibit government from going abroad to source for goods that are available in Nigeria.
The decision was meant to encourage promotion of campaign on locally produced goods so that Nigerians would be enticed to consume home made products.
To prevent excessive personalization of policies and promote policy consistency, it was decided that government submits a Bill on National Participatory Development Process to the National Assembly, to be enacted into law.
As a pro-gender policy, Conference asked government to provide a special fund for interest-free loans for women farmers, marketers, traders, transporters, and owners of rural cooperatives.
It was also agreed that all banks should establish gender desks to ease the stress of borrowing by women.
Government was also mandated to build fuel depots in remote areas and riverine communities where there is plenty of crude oil but no fuel to buy at affordable price.
Delegates also voted for a reduction by 50% of the cost of tuition, books, equipment and hostel for all female students in secondary and post-secondary education.
Conference said the Central Bank of Nigeria should establish a special interest regime of a single digit for industries and condemned situations where banks record billions of naira in profit yearly while the manufacturing sector dies.
It was further decided that operators of micro, small and medium enterprises should be duly registered and provided with tax holidays of three years to relieve them of the burden of multiple taxation and enhance their productivity.
In addition, local textile manufacturing industries were exempted from paying Value Added Tax (VAT) for three years while imported textiles should attract a levy of not less than 5% of the value of goods imported to boost the textile revival fund.
In addition, it was recommended by the Conference that government should completely release the N100 billion budgeted for the cotton, textile and garment revival scheme through the Bank of Industry.
As a move towards preventing monopolies in the privatized sector of the economy, Conference asked the Federal Government to send Anti-Trust Bill to the National Assembly for passage into law.
Meanwhile, on the 21st anniversary of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Elections, the National Conference paid tribute to Chief M.K.O Abiola and those killed during the crisis that followed.
Moving a motion under Matters of Urgent Public Importance, a South South Delegate, Orok Otu Duke, informed delegates of the need to honour Abiola and those that died in the struggle.
He said, “So many Nigerians died on that day. That is why we are here. Moshood Abiola paid the ultimate price. It is something we should never wish away like it never happened. Some of us here were victims of June 12.
“Those who fell for June 12 should be remembered today. We should pay tributes to those who fell for the cause of democracy spearheaded by Moshood Abiola. We should always remember this day as a watershed in the history of Nigeria.”
Also speaking, Chief Ayo Banjo declared that without June 12, there would be no May 29. “That is the basis of our freedom and democracy, and for that, we should remember the day for what it is worth. I therefore support that motion.”
Comrade Isa Aremu asserted that the best way Nigerians could mark the significance of June 12 was to use the occasion to call on all politicians to reaffirm the need for a free and fair election in the coming year.
“And what we are seeing today is like we have not learnt from that unfortunate situation that happened on June 12,” Comrade Aremu bemoaned; “election is now do or die. There is unnecessary violence. The real memory of June 12 is to reaffirm our commitment to free and fair election.”
Chief Mike Ozekhome submitted that June 12 has continued to remain critical in Nigeria’s history.
He said, “June 12 gave rise to May 29. We should not deceive ourselves. Some people paid the supreme price to attain the democracy we have today.
“We should not trivialise June 12 and I think that is something that is important. So many elder statesmen here went into exile and some of them were detained unjustly. We should observe a minute silence for all those that died in the struggle.
“They paid the supreme price in their sense of messiasm. We should give honour to whom it is due. June 12 is not just important; it is a watershed of Nigeria’s democracy.”
Chief Edwin Clark called on delegates to regard June 12 as the authentic democracy day; saying, “I lend my voice to the observations made; but for small mindlessness, June 12 should have been Democracy Day. May 29 is there because someone came to office and decided to make May 29 the Democracy Day.
“June 12 is democracy day in Nigeria. That day, the man that contested against Abiola came from Kano State and he agreed that he was floored by Abiola in Kano, his home town.”
“That shows how popular, how valuable Abiola was. If for eight years, he was not recognised, when the president came, he recognised him and renamed the University of Lagos after him; but for the protests of the students and lecturers.
“We must have heroes in our country. How did NADECO come to be? Many of our people ran away. As far as I am concerned, we must recognise today as an important day. I support the mover of this motion.”
After a long debate, Conference chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, called for the observance of a minute silence for those who lost their lives during the June 12 debacle.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATION