Text of Press Conference on the Position OF PRO-DEMOCRACY CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS ON THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE HELD AT THE NATIONAL ADVOCACY CENTRE OF SOCIAL ACTION, ABUJA ON WEDNESDAY 5TH FEBRUARY, 2014
We welcome the National Conference as an opportunity to discuss Nigeria and the serious challenges confronting the nation-state.
The Federal Government of Nigerian (FGN) recently released its working document for the convening of the National Conference. We now know the government is proposing 492 delegates, of which 46 will be nominated by the President, 108 by governors [that is each governor will nominate 3 delegates], 1 by the FCT, and another 26 by the Federal Government. In total, the number of government nominees is 181.
We also now know that the conference will sit for a minimum of 3 months, and that the only thing presumably off limits is the unity of Nigeria. The conference is also to advice the government on how its recommendations might be implemented. In other words, the government is leaving the decision as to whether its recommendations should be processed by the National Assembly or validated through a referendum, open to the Conference itself. We welcome this as an opportunity for the Conference to work with the Nigerian peoples to define and determine the sovereignty of its outcome.
There is so much to be said about the way and manner that numbers of delegates have been allocated to different organisations and constituencies. Nevertheless, our focus today is on the National Conference in its connection with the demands of the civil society movement as represented by the pro-democracy organisations with their roots in the anti-military struggle, and which have continued to deepen the democratic space since 1999, through their consistent stand and demands, reflecting the interests of the masses of Nigeria including during the January Uprising of 2012.
We want to state that the same groups which formed the driving and most consistent force in the struggle to enthrone democracy in Nigeria have remained central to the struggles of the masses. We have historically called for a Sovereign National Conference as a framework for determining a just and people-driven Nigerian state and to address the fundamental political, economic and other socio-cultural challenges facing our peoples and country.
That is why we have consciously decided to robustly engage this National Conference. As part of this engagement, we, as pro-democracy civil society organisations, have conducted series of consultations and meetings in the different geo-political zones and nationally. As a result, we are pleased to announce that we will submit the list of civil society nominees to the National Conference through the office of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation in the next 24 hours.
In addition, we are making the following positions known to the Federal Government of Nigeria as the convenor of the Conference:
* The discussion and reaching of an agreement on a social contract that will include the listing and recognition in the constitution, as well as justiceability of the entire body of human rights, including civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights, is imperative.
* We demand a greater proportion, not less than two-thirds of delegates for the independent non state actor representatives.
* Given that the government’s announcement on modalities for the conference specifically named certain individual civil society organisations, we state clearly that the space allotted to civil society is actually the slot for the Pro-Democracy Civil Society movement.
* We demand that the federal and state government nominees be reduced; and that a larger number of delegates should be allotted to civil society, in particular those of the Pro-Democracy Civil Society Movement.
* The outcome of the National Conference should be subjected to the validation of the peoples of Nigeria in a referendum.
* We suggest that two months into the three-month conference, there should be a break to enable delegates to report back to their constituents and revalidate the mandates they were given.
* We call on the citizens of our country to take their destiny into their own hands, and to proceed to begin to organise Regional, State and Pan-Communal Delegates Conferences to aggregate the positions and demands of our peoples towards the National Conference.
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani
Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
Convener, United Action for Democracy (UAD)
Dr. Isaac Osuoka
Director, Social Action
Executive Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
Coordinator, Protest to Power Movement (P2PM)
Coordinator, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
Executive Director, Partners for Electoral Reform (PER)
Y. Z. Yau
Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)