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National Confab: Delegates Bicker Over Feeding Arrangements

Former Chief Justice of Nigeria and chairman of the National conference, retired Justice Idris Kutigi
Former Chief Justice of Nigeria and chairman of the conference,
retired Justice Idris Kutigi

Some delegates participating in the ongoing National Conference were on Thursday in Abuja divided over the feeding arrangement by the leadership of the confab.

While some of them expressed disappointment about the poor quality of food, others said they wanted the food to be monetised to enable them to source for food outside the conference venue.

This led to a heated argument. Tempers flew when a delegate from the South South, Mr. J.I Ebinum, moved a motion to stop the secretariat from the provision of lunch for the delegates.

His motion, which came shortly before the delegates took their break for lunch, was rejected by other delegates who shouted “No” to the request.

Ebinum had argued that the caterer handling the feeding services had failed to make enough food available despite complaints to that effect.

However, when the Chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, put the matter to vote, the delegates rejected the motion and trooped out to the restaurant to eat.

When Kutigi tried to bring up the matter again towards the close of the sitting, another commotion ensued as delegates expressed reservations over the request.

A former Minister of Women Affairs and delegate representing elder statesmen, Mrs. Josephine Anenih, stood up to explain that the delegates were not asking for the stoppage of food supply “because things have improved.”

She said, “For the past two days we have been eating Chinese food, that was why they are all very happy. Delegates are complaining that the food has not been enough because other staffers of the National Judicial Institute, venue of the confab, have been joining in sharing the food meant for only 492 delegates.”

Another delegate from the South-West, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, also supported her, saying the conference should continue to provide the food but should try and improve on the quality.

He said, “We don’t want monetisation of the food, but what we are saying is that they should improve on the quality of food being served.”

Meanwhile, some delegates at the conference have appealed to Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of religious tolerance in order to reduce the rising spate of insecurity in the country.

As the debate on President Goodluck Jonathan’s speech to the conference entered its fourth day on Thursday in Abuja, the delegates shifted from the speech to matters central to the conference.

The speakers said that issues about religion were usually very sensitive and urged Nigerians to always be careful about how they reacted to them.

Malam Muzammil Hangar, representing Muslim religious leaders, said religion constituted a major challenge to the country, adding that religion was a very volatile issue.

“We agree with the Christian Association of Nigeria’s delegates to support the withdrawal of clear privileges in the constitution which appear tendentious to any religion; it should be removed across the board.

“We should remove privileges on public holidays relating to Christians or Muslims; sponsoring of pilgrimage to Mecca or Jerusalem; dress code; and insignias.

“We don’t need them at all. Remove them if this will make the country to move forward,” he said.

Hangar urged the conference to allow the religious representatives at the conference to sit together and resolve issues causing religious conflicts among themselves.

Prof. Andrew Haruna, representing the CAN, said religion was brought by the Arabs and the missionaries and should not be allowed to divide the country.

Source: Punch

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