The prohibition of foul language, reaching a consensus on issues and a requirement that resolution can only be passed by two-thirds or 75 per cent of the delegates are some of the draft rules and procedures that have been released by the National Conference secretariat.
The rules, which were distributed to the delegates yesterday, 21st March, 2014 and will be deliberated and approved on Monday, 24th March, 2014 when they reconvene, also stipulate that where a resolution cannot be reached by a two-thirds majority, the delegates will be given an extra week to agree and pass a resolution on the issue.
A delegate, who made public some key highlights of the conference guidelines titled, “National Conference Procedure Rules, 2014”, said delegates would also be required to affirm the indivisibility and sovereignty of Nigeria.
He further disclosed that delegates who wish to address the session must stick to issues that are relevant to the subject of discussion at a particular session. Where a new issue is to be tabled, delegates would be required to write to the Secretary of the Conference, it will be gazetted and shared to delegates at every sitting.
The guidelines, he said, also requires every member to be present at each session, but in the event of ill health, the delegate must write to the Secretary to obtain permission to be absent.
Other rules include:
1. A delegate risks being suspended for 14 days if found flouting the rules of proceeding of the conference.
2. The federal government is also proposing to disallow members from addressing issues at hand without prior written notice to the Chairman of the Conference.
3. Delegates are barred from assaulting or obstructing one another within the Conference room or precincts of the Conference room and or assaulting or obstructing any Officer of the Conference while in the execution of his/her duty.
4. No portion of these rules shall be suspended except by a vote of two-third majority of the delegates sitting and voting at the particular time.
5. A delegate may only read short extracts from books or papers in support of his argument and may refresh his memory by reference to notes.
6. A delegate must confine his contributions to the subject under discussion and may not introduce matters irrelevant thereto.
7. It shall be out of order to attempt to reconsider any specific question upon which the conference has come to a conclusion.
8. It shall be out of order to use offensive and insulting language during sittings either at plenary or in committees.
9. No delegate shall impute improper motives to any other delegate.
10. Delegates are prohibited from smoking or drinking on the floor of the conference.
11. The use of mobile phones shall not be allowed during sittings.
12. A delegate desiring to speak shall submit his name to the secretary on a paper to be provided and if called upon shall stand and address his observations to the chairman or the chairman of committee.
13. All committees shall forward their reports to the secretary at the conclusion of its sitting.
14. The secretary shall at her discretion determine when such reports of a committee shall be brought up at plenary for deliberation.
Also, a statement issued by the Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications of the Secretariat, Akpandem James, said the rules would enable them to prepare for the debate, ratification and subsequent adoption on Monday when the plenary resumes.
According to the Secretariat, when adopted by the delegates, the provisions would form the official rules of proceedings for the Conference.
The statement also said a copy of the Constitution of Nigeria (1999) was made available to the delegates in keeping with the promise given during the inaugural sitting by the Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi.
According to James, “The Draft Rules and the 1999 Constitution have been ready since 6am this morning and we have made them available to the delegates to study.
“However, it is only a draft; it is going to be debated clause by clause by the delegates on Monday. If they (delegates) adopt it, then it becomes the rules guiding the Conference.
“But if there is any clause they feel should be amended or rejected, then they will decide at the plenary on Monday.
“What we are trying to do as a Secretariat is to make the delegates as comfortable as possible to ensure smooth proceedings throughout the Conference."
Some of the delegates collected copies of the draft rules and the 1999 Constitution yesterday.
They also said they had also begun studying the voluminous reports of previous Conferences that were given to them at their inaugural meeting on Tuesday.
Former Plateau Governor, Chief Fidelis Tapgun, who is a delegate to the Conference, said the delegates were already studying copies of the rules of procedures for the plenary and the Constitution.
Tapgun said the procedures would have to be debated and adopted first before the plenary could really commence business on Monday.
“The documents are the report of the Political Bureau and the past constitutional conferences set up by (Olusegun) Obasanjo, (Ibrahim) Babangida and (Sani) Abacha.
“We often see that committees are set up and nothing is done with their reports. But we think that this time around, the President is determined that we would look at all the past reports and put them in one paper that will be useful to this country,” Tapgun said.
According to him, the documents will be needed by the delegates as reference materials that would guide them in their proceedings.
“We are going to continue making references to them so that we are properly guided and not work at cross purposes.
“There were certain things that were raised in those reports that were not implemented in the past, which we feel if implemented, may help.
“We will also see their relevance and see if they are relevant to our present Conference. We will see how we can raise them again,” he said.
Meanwhile, northern delegates to the Conference yesterday agreed to appoint a former Inspector General of Police and Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Ibrahim Coomasie, and Prof. Jerry Gana as the co-chairmen of the Northern Delegates Forum.
After a closed-door meeting, which was chaired by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Alfa Belgore, the delegates in a communiqué said though they recognized that the north is diverse in culture, ethnicity and religion, as well as the geographical, historical and political ties, they would “work in harmony for the overall interest of the geographical entity called the north”.
The appointment of Coomasie and Gana as co-chairmen was seen as the tactical coming together of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and the core north that make up the ACF.
According to the communiqué signed by Gana and Coomasie, the northern delegates said: “We reaffirm our desire and resolve to rekindle that spirit of togetherness, inclusivity and unity of purpose.”
They also agreed to work for the unity of the north at the Conference and beyond.
The communiqué further said: “The northern delegates shall work as a united delegation engaged in the pursuit of common aspiration and establish an umbrella called the Northern Delegates’ Forum (NDF) under Alhaji Ibrahim Commasie and Prof. Jerry Gana and therefore shall work and collaborate at the Conference for the common interest of the North.”
The communiqué said the NDF would reach out to other zones and groups with common aspirations with a view to solidifying the northern stand.