Senate bill mandates FG to check lopsidedness in appointment of Service Chiefs

• To restrict President to Federal Character principle

A bill to compel the President to comply with the Federal Character Principle in the appointment of Service Chiefs passed first reading on Tuesday in the Senate.

The Bill, “Armed Forces Service Commission and other related matters 2020” was sponsored by Senator representing Abia South senatorial district and Minority Leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe.

If passed into law, the Commission would be saddled with the responsibility of recommending the appointment of Service Chiefs to the President.

The Bill stated that the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Director of Military Intelligence and heads of other arm-bearing security agencies, shall be appointed, subject to recommendations by the Commission.

The Bill read in part: “The Commission shall have the power and authority pursuant to section 219 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to ensure that the composition/appointment of Service Chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Federation reflects federal character of Nigeria in the manner prescribed in section 217 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.”

It further stated that, “the Commission shall ensure that the functions specified in section 217 of the 1999 Constitution; and the powers exercisable by the President in the appointment of Service Chiefs and Officers Corps and other Ranks of the Armed Forces of the Federation in section 218 of the 1999 constitution reflects Federal Character of Nigeria.

“As from the date of commencement of this Act, the Commission shall have the power to recommend to the President from among the best and most qualified, most educated and most experienced members of the Armed Forces of the Federation for appointment as (a) Chief of Defence Staff (b) Chief of Army Staff (c) Chief of Air Staff (d) Chief of Naval Staff (e) Director of Military intelligence; And Heads of other Arm-bearing Security Agencies and ensure that such appointments reflect federal character principle of Nigeria.”

The Armed Forces Commission shall “recommend to the President the removal from office as Service Chiefs and Head of other Arm-bearing Security Agencies on the ground of misconduct, abuse of office, breach of any section of the Constitution, the Armed Forces Act or any other Act of the National Assembly.

“The Commission shall have the power to approve promotion from among the best, most competent and qualified officers as Heads of Military formations/branches such as General Officers Commanding Divisions of the Nigerian Army and their equivalent in the Navy and Air Force.

“Provided that in making such recommendations the Commission shall observe the Federal Character principle and adopt an equitable template to spread the offices of the Service Chiefs, and Officers Corps and other Ranks of the Armed Forces of the Federation among the six geo-political zones of the country.”

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The commission is also to “subject to the provisions section 215 (1) and 216 (2) of the 1999 Constitution on the powers of the Nigerian Police Council advise the President on the appointment of Inspector General of Police and notwithstanding any other provision in any other law establishing any other security agency.

“The Commission shall have the power to recommend to the President from among the best and most qualified, most educated and most experienced officers of the Nigeria Police Force, State Security Service (SSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Office of the National Security Adviser(ONSA), and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigerian Custom Service, Nigerian Immigration Service and Nigerian Correctional Service, persons for appointment as Inspector General of Police, Director General of SSS, Director-General NIA, Director General of ONSA, and Commandant General of NSCDC, Comptroller General of Customs, Comptroller General of Immigration, Comptroller General of Prisons, and Head of the Federal Fire Service.”

The proposed law further recommends that “in making such recommendations, the Commission shall take into cognizance the federal character principle and the geo-political zones of the country that produced the four Service Chiefs provided in this section, and ensure that the Heads of other Security Agencies provided in this subsection spread equitably among the six geo-political zones of the country.

“The Commission shall have power to make regulation in the performance of its functions to ensure that each zone of the Federation is equitably represented in the appointments of Service Chiefs and Officers Corps and other Ranks of the Armed Forces of the Federation and Heads of other Security and paramilitary and armed-bearing security agencies of the Federation, and ensuring that the most competent and qualified person from each zone is appointed at all times.”

It reads further that “notwithstanding the provision in any other law establishing the Armed Forces, Nigerian Police Force and other security/para-military agencies, Commission shall supervise and approve upon certifying that Federal Character provided in this Act has been duly observed, all promotions in the Armed Forces of the Federation, Nigerian Police Force and other Security and para-military and Armed-bearing security agencies of the Federation.

“Where the number of available positions cannot go round the six geopolitical zones of the Federation, the distribution of appointments shall be done between equally between the North and South.”

Tribune Online investigation revealed that eminent Nigerians have consistently squealed against the present composition of Service Chiefs which they noted is skewed against the southern part of the country.

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