A cross-section of Nigerians of all walks of life have urged the Federal Government to subject the outcome of the ongoing National Conference to a referendum.
A nationwide opinion survey of personalities conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday indicated that most respondents preferred ratification of conference decisions by referendum rather than Presidential or National Assembly endorsement.
It would be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan said while inaugurating the conference that its outcome may be subjected to a referendum.
“If the outcome of the National Conference is to be binding on Nigerians, the people must have a say in the final outcome,’’ said a Sokoto-based lawyer, Mr Ferdinand Okotote.
According to him, such an action would legitimise the decisions of the conference.
Many respondents, however, were of the opinion that asking the National Assembly to ratify the conference decisions would be less expensive and bear no cost to the economy.
“The National Assembly is already an established institution; but conducting a referendum is like conducting a fresh general elections.
So, conducting a referendum would be more expensive and more cumbersome.
“If we want the outcome of the National Conference to acquire legitimacy and respect, and used as an instrument to amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there should be a referendum,’’ Mohammed said.
However, the Chairman of the Sokoto State chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Mr Steve Nwoke, was of the view that the resolutions of the conference should be submitted to the National Assembly for ratification.
A senior lecturer at the Niger Delta University (NDU), Mr Ebipado Sapere-Obi, expressed uncertainty about a referendum, “because of the absence of an enabling law for a referendum in Nigeria’’.
The Secretary, Sokoto State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Abdallah El-Kurebe, expressed support for a referendum.
“Nigerians must have the final say on the outcome, and they can only do so through a referendum,’’ El-Kurebe, said.
Also in support for a referendum was the chairman, Sokoto State chapter of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Alhaji Abba Sidi.
He was supported by Mrs. Florence Itamunoala, Chairperson, Rivers chapter, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), who also held the view that the conference deliberations be subjected to a national referendum.
Itamunoala said the referendum would give a large number of Nigerians the opportunity to make their input.
“At least we can boldly say that the generality of Nigerians have contributed, or made their input to the conference,’’ Itamunoala said.
The Nation Secretary, Alliance for Democracy (AD), Mr. Rafiu Salau, also held that the outcome of National Conference should be subjected to a referendum.
He said that a referendum would not be seen as an imposition, but a collective decision and a democratic process.
Dr. Raphael James, Director-General, Center for Research, Information Management and Media Development, Lagos, also expressed the view that the conference resolutions be ratified by the National Assembly.
But a Benin-based legal practitioner, Mr Chris Ighoja, said that adoption of a referendum was the best option, adding: “the National Assembly makes laws, and the people make constitution’’.
A former National Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. John Ndukauba, said a referendum would be possible after an amendment of the Nigerian constitution.
According to him, the constitution as it exists presently, does not provide for a referendum.
He, therefore, advised President Goodluck Jonathan to “deploy his lobbying powers to get the National Assembly to fast-track the constitution amendment process to incorporate referendum’’.