IN line with his usual practice regarding postings and appointments, President Muhammadu Buhari recently sparked controversy once again when he announced lopsided nominations into the Federal Character Commission (FCC). In a letter dated March 18, 2020 and addressed to the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, Buhari nominated Mrs Farida Dankaka from Kwara State as the new FCC chairman. He also nominated 37 other board members for confirmation by the Senate. Shockingly, Buhari nominated a candidate from Taraba State as secretary of the commission, meaning that the two major positions in the commission would now be occupied by persons from the northern part of the country. But that was not all: the list of included the name of a dead former member of the House of Representatives, Tobias Okwuru Chukwuemeka.The lawmaker had reportedly died in February 2020. It will be recalled that in 2017, the list of appointments into the boards of federal agencies and corporations contained the names of five persons, namely Senator Francis Okpozo (Delta), Rev. Father Christopher Utau (Benue), DIG Donald Ugbaja (retd), Garba Attahiru (Kaduna) and Umar Dange (Sokoto).The Senate has since referred the FCC nominations to its committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs headed by Senator Danjuma La’ah for further legislative action within four weeks.
Since it came to power in 2015, the Buhari administration has serially violated the federal character principle in making appointments and, as if that was not bad enough, major departments of government have followed in its footsteps. For instance, in March 2016, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reportedly hired 909 staff in two years without advertising the vacancies as required by law. Those hired in a secretive and underhand manner were children and relatives of prominent politicians, government officials, top political party leaders and other persons of privilege. The CBN, following public outrage over this apparent nepotism, spoke through its acting Director of Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor, admitting the secretive nature of the recruitments. It however claimed to have obtained a waiver from the FCC “to recruit people of certain classes that we used to cover the shortfall in those states” that were not well represented at the apex bank. Yet under the principle of corporate governance, the CBN was duty-bound to make all appointments on the “basis of merit, through a fair and open selection process.”
Writing on the persisting lopsidedness in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in December last year, we noted that neither the police nor the Federal Government had denied the gross act of disdain and insensitivity to the psyche of all stakeholders in the Nigerian federation. According to reports, the North-West alone got the lion share of the appointments, with 12 indigenes from the zone elevated as Commissioners of Police, whereas the entire South-East had just one, just as 14 other states in the federation did not make the list at all. In any case, in July 2017, many Nigerians rose against the lopsided recruitments into the the State Security Service (SSS), otherwise known as the Department of State Services (DSS), in which Katsina State alone had more cadets than the entire South-South geopolitical zone. Going by the revelations published in the media, of the total number of 479 recruits, 51 were from Katsina State alone, while 42 new cadets were recruited from the six South-South states. A sensitive security agency like the SSS neglected the federal character principle and the lopsided recruitments did grave damage to the image of the Buhari administration which claims to be fighting against corruption. Besides, there have, at various times, been allegations of secret recruitments into the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Space Research and Development Agency, and the National Open University (NOUN, Federal Civil Service Commission, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Rural Electrification Agency, Nigerian Navy and many more.
It is saddening that the lopsided appointments have been extended to the FCC, a body established by law to implement and enforce the federal character principle to ensure fairness and equity in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructure among the various units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If the FCC, which is supposed to “work out an equitable formula, subject to the approval of the National Assembly, for distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service of the federation and of the states, the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force, other government security agencies and government-owned companies/parastatals of the states,” is itself mired in nepotism, just how can it effectively discharge its duties? How can it promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principle of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government if its leadership is geographically unbalanced?
When, in previous editorials, we deplored Buhari’s failure to appoint replacements for those whose tenure expired at the FCC, thus crippling the organisation, we in no way suggested that new appointments should be made with blatant lopsidedness. To say the least, having both the chairman and secretary of the FCC from the North violates Section 4 of the subsidiary legislation which states that: “Where the number of positions available cannot go round the states of the federation or the Federal Capital Territory, the distribution shall be on zonal basis. But in the case where two positions are available, the positions shall be shared between the northern and southern zones.”
We urge the Senate to reject the nomination of northerners as chairman and secretary of the FCC.
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