Stormy session again over resource control
There was a stormy session at the National Conference committee on devolution of powers yesterday as delegates bickered over resource control, forcing the committee to adjourn again.
But the committee also shot down suggestions of creating State Police, when they voted to retain the police in the exclusive legislative list of the constitution.
The delegates were engaged in a heated debate, raising motions upon motions on whether legislation on mining of mineral resources should remain the exclusive right of the federal government.
For more than two hours, the debate on mining went on, as members battled to resolve the impasse on whether state governments should have a say in mining of natural minerals.
The committee was divided along regional lines as a section wanted the status quo as contained in the 1999 Constitution sustained, while the other section wanted state governments to be involved in the mining industry.
On Thursday last week, the committee co-chairman Obong Victor Attah, in the midst of a heated debate, advised committee members to make their written submissions available on Monday, indicating how the contentious Item 39 in the Exclusive List could be amended for states participation in the mining business.
Attah’s absence at the committee sitting yesterday almost turned the table on the issue, with some delegates insisting that the matter be put to vote in the absence of a consensus while others settled for further negotiation for a consensus.
Retired Inspector General of Police and co-chairman of the committee, Ibrahim Coomasie, who presided, also drew the attention of the members to the fact that the issue was undecided at the close of session on Thursday and should therefore be sorted out immediately.
Retired General Jeremiah Useni, who opened discussions on the matter as soon as the session opened on yesterday, moved a motion that the issue be left the way it is in the constitution. His motion was instantly supported, particularly by northern delegates.
However, former Minister Professor Alphonsus Nwosu, quickly cautioned that the issue is contentious and it could thus trigger crisis in some parts of the country.
He said an amicable consensus could be reached on the issue depending on how it was handled, “but if we bully our way through on this matter, one way or the other, we may end up continuously promoting militancy in the affected areas.”
But Dr Haruna Yerima from Borno state disagreed, insisting that the issue be put to vote since it was clear that reaching a consensus would be impossible.
Buba Galadima from Yobe state also said the matter should be put to vote without further arguments since a quorum had been formed so as to allow committee face other issues.
Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, however objected. He cited certain sections of the Standing Rules of the Conference which allow for further consultation on issues that could not be decided on consensus at the first instance.
Professor Eddy Erhagbe said the two seemingly incompatible positions were capable of tearing the meeting apart and suggested an amendment which he believed could satisfy the two sides; by adding the clause “provided that government of the state where the mining activities take place is involved.”
Although other arguments followed immediately, some members suggested that the amendment proposed by Erhagbe be looked into and possibly adopted in the interest of peace.
Bashir Dalhatu from Jigawa state stoutly opposed suggestions by Chief Dozie Ikedife and Professor Nsongurua Udombana that the matter be stood own until written submissions agreed upon last Thursday be made available for amicable resolution of the argument.
Dalhatu argued that submission of written positions by members would only reflect the trend of arguments that had been heard already, saying that “we can adjourn for 15 minutes for consultation, but we have to vote.”
Dr Junaid Mohammed from Kano state supported the position with a declaration that the matter must not be returned to the plenary undecided. He insisted on a vote being taken immediately.
A suggestion by former Deputy President of the Senate, Ibrahim Mantu, that there was need for adjournment in view of the rising tempers, was supported by Akintola.
However, just as Akintola finished talking, Useni, who moved the initial motion, repeated his motion and insisted on a vote being taken.
Shortly after, another support by Chief Ayo Adebanjo to Mantu’s suggestion, the co-chairman ruled in favour of adjournment till today to enable members submit their positions in writing for a consensus.
The issue of State Police also took a similar trend with southerners in support while northerners opposed.
Udombana said there was no replacement to State Police, adding that the fears of its being abused would be taken care of by laws.
Dalhatu said, “I don’t think we are yet ready in this country for State Police.”
Adebanjo and Tony Adefuye were of the view that with the establishment of State Police, most of the crisis that have rocked the country would always be chased away at the roots.
Magaji Dambatta said State Police would amount to legalising intimidation of political opponents by sitting governors.
After contribution by former governor of the defunct North Westers State, Alhaji Usman Farouk, the matter was put to vote and it was decided that police be retained in the exclusive list.