Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Big Federal Character Question

In Nigeria, no one is ever sacked from Government except they are fighting corruption or trying to uphold the law. This appears to be trend as we have seen a number of embattled political office holders blaming their woes on the resolve to walk the straight and narrow path.

Weeks ago, Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Arunma Oteh , while appearing before a House of Representatives public hearing on the capital market responded to allegations of impropriety level against her as the handiwork of those bent ensuring that business remains as usual. The Mbinister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, echoed almost the same sentiments during her ministerial screening before the senate when answering a question as to the circumstances of her departure during her first stint as Minister.

The latest person to wear the rule-of-law, constitutionalism cloak is a Commissioner of the Federal Character Commission and erstwhile Acting Chairman who the Federal Government has written to the National Assembly seeking his removal. The Commissioner, Mohammed Gwaska, has alleged that Jonathan is seeking his sack because of his insistence on adherence to the constitution. He claims that the charges of Misconduct and dereliction of duty leveled against him are false and politically motivated.

While I do not want to question Alhaji Gwaska’s love for the constitution, a look at the workings of the Federal Character Commission, which he chaired for a while, shows that it is still a long way from constitutionalism.

The Federal Character Commission was established through Decree 34 of 1996 with the main purpose of enforcing (emphasis mine) the federal character principle of fairness and equity in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructure among the various federating units in Nigeria. The principle is also supported by section 14 and 153 of the 1999 constitution.

Has the Commission discharged this mandate creditably since its establishment 18 years ago? I think not. Nigeria is still bugged down by the high nepotism as displayed by the concentration of a certain ethnic group in a government agency when the head of such agency is from that ethnic stock.
A ready example is the Nigeria Economic management Team which is largely composed of people from the South East region. This is clearly in violation of the Federal Character principle but has the Commission raised any objections.

How about the accusation in some quarters that recent appointments in the NNPC favoured the South South region with as much as 40% of senior management positions? Similar allegations have also been leveled against the CBN.

While I personally believe that the concept of Federal Character often times breeds mediocrity and is not the best for development, it is part of our laws for a reason and that reason is to maintain balance of interests and in so doing stabilize the polity.

In my view therefore, the Federal Character Commission has not discharged this responsibility. Rather it is one of the most silent and oft forgotten agencies of government. Indeed, no one would have mentioned the Commission recently had it not been for the Gwaska controversy. Yet we are bombarded with cries of marginalization on a daily basis from various parts of the country.

Gwaska’s attempted sack may or may not be politically motivated but the performance of the Commission since inception certainly shows a flagrant disregard for law and constitutionalism.  And this is contrary to the picture the Commissioner is now trying to paint.

No comments:

Post a Comment