Since the publication of the initial list of delegates to the National Conference which starts on March 17, 2014 in Abuja Nigeria, Ugbajo Itsekiri USA, Inc. (Ugbajo Itsekiri) has been monitoring the print media and internet for opinions of Nigerians in general and Itsekiri in particular on the initial exclusion of Itsekiri delegates to the National Conference, as well as reactions and/or response from the Federal Government.

There was no question that the criteria and procedure for selecting the delegates have been superseded with some phantom qualifying yardstick. This is the only logical reason for a list without Itsekiri delegates. As stated by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that “It (the Conference) shall advise the Government on the legal framework, legal procedure and options for integrating the decision and outcomes of the National Conference into the constitution and laws of the country”.

Therefore Ugbajo Itsekiri submits that Itsekiri have equal rights as other ethnic groups in Nigeria to contribute to the outcome of such deliberations. Anything else is considered unfair, misguided, oppressive and violation of our rights. Ugbajo Itsekiri demands more than one slot for Itsekiri delegates. The qualifications of numerous well known potential Itsekiri delegates have been widely discussed in the press, in and outside Nigeria following the release of the first list.. From these discussions most of the Itsekiri were more than qualified using the published qualifications. Additionally the Federal Government of Nigeria must be reminded that oil and gas exploration and production from Itsekiri land account disproportionately more to the national treasury than any other ethnic nationality in Nigeria. Should we (Itsekiri) not have any say on the impact of the development of these resources on our environment and our quality of life? Ugbajo Itsekiri recommends as submitted by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim that “all Socio-Political and Nationality Groups in the country have been given 15 slots from each Geo-Political zone just as five political parties will get 2 slots each in the proposed National Conference”. The Federal Government of Nigeria on Thursday, March 13, 2014 revised the original list of delegates to the National Conference to include Chief Issac O. Jemide. The new list confirmed the information Ugbajo Itsekiri had received earlier from reliable government and community leaders and media sources. This is a step in the right direction and the Federal Government of Nigeria deserves some credit. With this announcement the Delta State Government also should gain some credibility and the trust of Deltans. It is our hope that both the government and citizenry recognize that value of collaboration to advance the aspirations of Nigeria. Ugbajo Itsekiri USA, Inc appreciates the efforts of all Itsekiri and their sympathizers to give the inclusion of Itsekiri delegation to the National Conference a life of its own in the press and internet. Nigeria is a nation made up of diverse ethnic groups with diverse opinions and extremely educated and opinionated individuals, the selection of delegates should consider the inclusion of qualified candidates from each ethnic nationality. This is the right thing to do. It fosters mutual respect and recognition of the interests of the various ethnic groups – some key ingredients for attaining a great nation. Signed: Dr. Fabian Iwere Ms. Patience Edremoda President, Ugbajo Itsekiri USA, Inc For the Publicity Committee, Ugbajo Itsekiri USA, Inc

ACTIVIST and Igba of Warri, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor has vowed to take it personal with emerged Itsekiri lone representative at the National Dialogue, Chief Isaac Jemide, if he fails to speak the collective interest of the Itsekiri at the National Conference which opens Monday. Chief Lori-Ogbebor was reacting yesterday in Warri, Delta State to doubts among Itsekiri whether Chief Jemide’s last minute listing among the Confab delegates was intended as a state delegate or as representative of his ethnic Itsekiri who had challenged their exclusion in the original delegates list. CHIEF RITA LORI-OGBEBOR CHIEF RITA LORI-OGBEBOR At an Itsekiri National Confab she facilitated in Warri to articulate the Istekiri agenda at the National Dialogue, Lori- Ogbebor said Chief Jemide is duty bound to fly the Itsekiri flag at the Conference irrespective of the circumstance of his appointment. “We were completely left out. We fought together. Now we have Chief Jemide. He is first an Itsekiri before any other identity. I invited him in writing to this conference to fashion the Itsekiri agenda and he is not here. Go and tell him, if he goes there to undermine the interest of Itsekiri, I will fight him. “I am known to be a fighter for just courses wherever I find my self. But when I fight justly in my own Itsekiri land I fight with a blunt knife because I fight among my own brothers. But on this Confab, if anybody tries to play with our lives, our interest, I will fight with a sharp knife, double egded.” In his reservations at the meeting, however, a lawyer, Wilson Alatsa, cautioned that Chief Jemide was not the issue, saying what was paramount was for the Itsekiri nation to rally round him to articulate the common purpose of the Delta ethnic minority. “The credentials of Jemide are not in doubt. We should even count ourselves lucky he emerged from Itsekiri. The real reason we have been gradually losing our pride and respect in recent time is because we drifted into a generation which allows unqualified persons to represent us in various spheres in the larger Nigerian circle. “Without doubt, if the choice of who represents us was by election, unqaulified persons no where near the staure of Jemide would have hijacked the process and imposed themselves on us. What we need now is a support committee to assist Jemide in charting the Itsekiri agenda. The Lori-Ogbebor Itsekiri Committee on National Confab was already constituting the Jemide Support Committee at the time of filing this report. The occassion was chaired by one of the high profile South West delegates to National Conference, Gen. Alami Akirinade, who accepted Itsekiri’s desire to fuse with the Yorubas in fighting common agenda at the confab.

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The National Conference sitting in Abuja today voted that the country’s Constitution should be amended to allow for a less onerous process for state creation. The Conference specifically approved the creation of an additional state for the South East zone, “in the spirit of reconciliation, equity and justice.”

As soon as the unanimous decision was taken, the hall erupted in celebration as delegates from the South East went around shaking hands and thanking other delegates for their support.

Delegates agreed that henceforth, state creation should be on the basis of parity between the geo-political zones to ensure equality of zones.

The Conference said such aspiration must be backed by the potential viability of the proposed state in terms of economic potential, human natural and material resources as well as minimum land and water mass.

The envisaged state, delegates agreed, must have cultural and historical antecedent, with strong cultural affinity amongst its population while the component should be contiguous.

In addition, the Conference adopted the recommendation that for any new state to be created such a new state must have a minimum population of one million persons. Delegates approved in principle, the eventual creation of 18 additional states across the country as a way of meeting the yearning and aspirations of the people. This, added to the one approved for the South east, means 19 new states.

On other issues, delegates resolved that henceforth, the office of the President of Nigeria shall rotate between the North and South and revolve among the geo-political zones. It was also agreed that the office of the state governors shall be rotated among the three senatorial districts of each state while that of the local government chairmen shall to be rotated within the local government areas.

Also, local government councils not democratically elected shall not be recognised by all authorities and persons and would not be entitled to any revenue allocation from the Federation Account or the Account of the State Government or exercise any function exercisable by local government councils.

These were parts of the resolutions adopted by the Conference while considering the Report of the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government; which attracted intensive debates and lots of amendments.

These were parts of the resolutions adopted by the Conference while considering the Report of the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government; which attracted intensive debates and lots of amendments.

It was also expected to examine Nigeria’s attendant challenges and the need to lay a solid foundation for an all-inclusive and cost-effective system of government which would serve the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.

Where the President dies in office, is incapacitated, impeached or where he resigns, Conference agreed that the Vice President shall operate in acting capacity for a period of 90 days during which an election to the same officewould be conducted.

This decision was taken because each zone is expected to run the full course of the constitutionally allowed tenure without undue disruption; and it was also agreed that based on the adopted zoning formula, when a president leaves under any of the circumstances stated above, another president would be elected from the same zone where the previous one came from.

Conference also voted in favour of Modified Presidential of Government as recommended by the Committee; described as home-made model of government that combines the attributes of Parliamentary and Presidential systems.The concept is believed to have the potentials of entrenching the principle of Separation of Powers aspracticed in presidential system and promotion of co-operation and harmony between executive and the legislature as operated under the parliamentary system.

The President elected under the new system shall exercise full responsibility for his government and shall select ministers, not more than 18 of them, from the six geo-political zones of the country. It was agreed that henceforth, the Minister of Finance and no longer the President as presently obtained, would present the annual budget to the National Assembly. Under the new arrangement, both the President and the ministers would be expected to appear before the National Assembly to render account of their stewardship on quarterly basis Conference also voted to retain the bicameral legislative system instead of the unicameral proposed by the Committee in its report. Still on local government administration, delegates approved the scrapping of Joint State and Local Government Accounts; to be replaced with a State Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.The body would be expected to have as members, representatives of local government areas and a chairman nominated by the state governor for confirmation by the House of Assembly.

In addition to the functions conferred on the local government councils as specified in the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended, a State House of Assembly may by law, confer other functions on the local government. Henceforth, and except otherwise overturned, Conference adopted a recommendation to confer financial autonomy on State Houses of Assembly as a way of freeing them from direct control by the executive.

Conference agreed that the Constitution shall fix the tenures for local government councils. It was also voted that for functionality, local government should be politically and economically independent. Delegates voted overwhelmingly on the proposal that each state of the federation should have its own constitution which of course would be subservient to the Federal Constitution.

During consideration of additional recommendations, Conference unanimously adopted a proposal that Nigeria reverts to her old National Anthem, “which is a more credible symbol of unity, peace and prosperity.”Instantly, delegates were up on their feet and in unison sang the first stanza of the old National Anthem which if adopted eventually, would become the new anthem.

It was equally resolved that the right to self-determination by the states as federating units should be extended to ethnic nationalities within the states if they so desired. As a policy item, the Federal Government was urged to set up a new commission to address the plight of indigenes of the Federal Capital Territory. At the same time, Conference said the Local Content Act Provision should be extended to the original citizens of the Federal Capital as it relates to procurement within the territory.

However, attempts by some delegates to increase the number of senators from the Federal Capital Territory from one to two was opposed to and voted out. As a way of improving the wellbeing of many Nigerians, Conference called for adoption of fiscal federalism. As the Conference winds down on its activities, delegates resolved on the need for modalities for entrenchment of referendum in the Constitution.

Photo shows National Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi