Jonathan: Conference decisions may be subjected to referendum

No Comments » March 17th, 2014 posted by // Categories: Sovereign National Conference (SNC) Project



 

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Jonathan: Conference decisions may be subjected to referendum

MARCH 18, 2014 BY OLUSOLA FABIYI, FRIDAY OLOKOR, KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE AND OLALEKAN ADETAYO4 COMMENTS

PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan on Monday inaugurated the National Conference with a promise that the outcome of the conference might be subjected to a referendum.

Addressing the 492 delegates to the Justice Idris Kutigi-led National Conference in Abuja, the President said, “Let me at this point thank the National Assembly for introducing the provision for a referendum in the proposed amendment of the Constitution.

“This should be relevant for this Conference if at the end of the deliberations, the need for a referendum arises.”

An elated Jonathan described the inauguration as “the dawn of a new era,” saying he had no personal agenda in convening the talks.

“Let me again repeat what I have been saying that Goodluck Jonathan has no personal agenda in convening this national conference,” the President told a gathering of top government officials, elder statesmen, the delegates and six conference officials who attended the inauguration at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja.

Critics had said the conference was a distraction from the 2015 general elections and that it had a political undertone.

Opposition All Progressives Congress said it would not participate. The Northern Elders Forum said it lacked legitimacy.

A Federal High Court will on Tuesday (today) commence hearing in a suit filed by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s former lawyer, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, against the holding of the conference. Abayomi said the talks lacked enabling legislation from the National Assembly.

But majority of the citizens appeared favourably disposed to the conference, which they hoped would give the citizens the opportunity to negotiate knotty national issues.

The President said his administration decided to convene the National Conference because of its belief that it must assume responsibility for ensuring that the long-running national debate on the best way forward for the country had not been in vain.

He said he was convinced that the dialogue would turn out to be another significant landmark in government’s efforts to strengthen national unity and consolidate democratic governance in the country.

He said it was important for Nigeria to build a more inclusive national consensus on the structure and guiding principles of state that would guarantee its emergence as a more united, progressive and prosperous nation.

While saying that the nation had always forged ahead after experiencing highs and lows, Jonathan said the fact that Nigerians had weathered all storms and continued with the mission of evolving a truly national identity signified that they were going in the right direction.

He said, “The strongest nations in the world today also went through their own formative stages; some for decades and others for centuries. We must learn from them that nationhood will not happen overnight, especially given the circumstances of our birth as a nation.

“History also teaches that nation-building is a journey of dedication, commitment, diligence, perseverance and patriotic vision. To be successful, nation-builders must continually strive to evolve better and more inclusive societies in which every citizen is a proud and committed stakeholder.

“It was with this objective in mind that we set up the Presidential Advisory Committee on the National Conference in October last year and charged its members with the responsibility of designing the framework and modalities for a productive National Conference.

“The committee, which submitted its report in December, 2013, was able to reach out to all Nigerians and various interest groups, socio-political groupings, regional and religious elements, professionals, civil society, organised private sector, labour, youths, women and others to ascertain their views on the initiative.

“The Presidential Advisory Committee established that there was indeed a national consensus for this Conference to be convened immediately, to meet the yearnings and aspirations of our people.”

He said the conference would not usurp the powers of the National Assembly as feared in certain quarters. He also told critics of the conference that he convened it as a result of the conviction that the government needed to heed the voice of the citizens.

He said, “I have also heard them say that, as the elected representatives of our people, we must never arrogate to ourselves all knowledge and wisdom regarding the development of our country.

“And I am in full agreement with our people. The power we hold is, without question, in trust for the people. Sovereignty belongs to the people. Their voices must be heard and factored into every decision we take on their behalf.

“This National Conference is a very important avenue for the voices of our people to be heard. Our people have yearnings and desires that need to be discussed. Their representatives at this conference are neither usurping the role of the National Assembly nor the Executive. They are complementing us in our march towards a greater and stronger union.”

The inauguration was witnessed by Vice-President Namadi Sambo; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Mukhtar; Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu; members of the National Assembly, state governors, members of the Federal Executive Council as well as traditional and religious leaders, among others.

 

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