ON TOP D MATTER: Weeks 11&12 of the National Confab

still on the matter…

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It’s been another fortnight and in that time – as usual – plenty has happened. Find below a summary of the most relevant events:

  1. Death. Again:

The National Confab has recorded two more deaths. First was Hajiya Maryamu Kutigi, wife of the chairman presiding over the Confab, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi (rtd). She died at about 2am on Wednesday, the 28th of May and was buried the next day according to Muslim rites.

At about 10am on Saturday, the 7th of June in an Indian hospital, Prof. Mrs. Dora Akunyili followed. Prof. Mrs. Akunyili was the former NAFDAC boss whose dogged attitude on the job transformed the face of the food and drug administration agency; she was also Minister of Information and Communications from December 2008 to 2010 and was at the conference as a delegate with the Anambra contingent. In one of the earlier ON TOP D MATTER reports (see here) concerns had been raised over her emaciated physical appearance but the 59-year old professor of Pharmacy and Pharmacology allayed all fears stating that she was on her way to full recovery from ill health rather than the other way around. She was wrong though; reports filtering in suggest she lost to cervical cancer, a battle she had been fighting for nearly two years.

These deaths bring the death toll to three of confab delegates in less than three months since the commencement of the National Conference (see here for the other deaths). And this has raised concerns in different quarters of the country. Questions have begun to re-emerge with respect to the criteria that were used for validation of delegate nominations; two of the three deaths resulted from critical health situations which the victims had been diagnosed with before the Conference start date.

Since there were clearly no age limits, one would expect that there should have been screening procedures set up to discover ailing nominees. Surely such discoveries would have saved some of these invaluable lives. As is usually the case with ‘unimportant’ questions such as these, nobody is answering and we can only hope that in the few weeks left for the Confab to pack up we do not experience any more deaths.

 

  1. SUBSIDY OR NOT:

On Tuesday, the 3rd of June, the conference committee on public finance and revenue, chaired by Senator Adamu Aliero, recommended a total removal of subsidy on petroleum products, arguing that this had been a major financial burden the nation has been made to bear. The recommendation generated heated debate at the plenary and created sharp division among the delegates, who accused one another of vested interests.

However, when the recommendation was put to voice vote, delegates rejected total removal of the fuel subsidy.

The compromise was for a motion which mandated the government to meet the following requirements before attempting total removal of the subsidy:

  • That the Federal Government shall, within a period of three years from the date, build new refineries and repair existing ones to full capacity utilization;
  • That private sector entrepreneurs who have already been granted licenses to build new refineries shall, within a period of three years from date, build such new refineries, or automatically forfeit such licenses;
  • That upon fulfillment of the preceding conditions, the Federal Government shall be free to remove any subsidy from petroleum products.

The delegates unanimously adopted this motion.

Proponents of total removal however continued to speak to reporters about their conviction that the nation was better off with the removal of the subsidy. Mrs Hauwa Shekarau, leader of Women Lawyers in Nigeria under the aegis of International Federation of Women Lawyer was one of such delegates. Referring to the existence of the subsidy as an appendage of the pervading rot in the country, she wondered “why those who in one breadth decry corruption would at another, defend or argue for the retention of a clear infrastructure of corruption”. I wonder too.

 

  1. LABOR RECRUITMENT AND MINIMUM WAGE:

Delegates, on Thursday, the 5th of June, unanimously rejected an amended recommendation of the Mrs. Ebele Okeke-led Committee on Public Service to jerk up the NGN18,000 minimum wage to NGN40,000. The decision was based on the reason that a review of workers’ salaries was unnecessary at the time.

The development came just as it recommended a complete ban on government ministries, departments and agencies from collecting application fees from applicants seeking employments into such organizations. This recommendation stemmed from the few months old Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise where many job seekers died and others injured in a stampede. The conference adopted a proposal for the setting up of recruitment centers in the states of the federation to look into issues of employment.

 

With just a little over a month to go, the National Confab gradually wraps up. That end however, is not looking as rosy as a few optimists – myself included – had envisioned it. While I pray for repose for the souls sadly fallen, I also pray for those still standing on the floor of that deliberation venue and the resolutions they will reach. So help us God.

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Mention me on twitter @ojukwu_martin

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