By Dons Eze, PhD
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has hit the nail at the head when he challenged members of the Federal Character Commission (FCC) to ensure that there is fairness and equity in the implementation and enforcement of the principles of federal character in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructures among the federating units of the country.
Playing host to the Commissioner representing Enugu State in the Federal Character Commission, Mrs. Ginika Florence Tor, Governor Ugwuanyi maintained that it was the responsibility of the commission to ensure that all positions in the federal public service, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA), including the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Police, were equitably distributed in accordance with the principles of the country’s federalism.
He particularly charged Mrs. Tor, as the representative of Enugu State in the Federal Character Commission, to ensure that various complaints of marginalization and under-representation of the state in both the federal civil service and federal agencies were redressed, and that Enugu State gets her fair share in these institutions.
Agitations that positions in both the federal civil service and the various federal agencies and institutions were monopolized or occupied by people from few sections of the country had forced the federal government of Nigeria to come up with the idea of geographical spread and the establishment of Federal Character Commission (FCC) to ensure equitable distribution of positions in the federal public service.
Established by Act No 34 of 1996, the Federal Character Commission aims to implement and enforce the federal character principle of fairness and equity in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructures among the various federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The main duty of the Commission is to work out “an equitable formular for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the civil and public service of the federation and of the state, the Armed Forces, the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies, bodies corporate owned by the Federal or a State Governments and Extra-Ministerial Departments and parastatals of the Federation and States”.
Even though a lot of people have some reservations over the idea of having “federal character” in everything in the country, which could be a way of promoting mediocrity rather than meritocracy, yet even with the existence of the Federal Character Commission, cries of marginalization and under-representation in various federal government agencies and institutions, have continued unabated, where one section of the country appears to dominate everywhere.
Look at a federal government agency like the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which some people have re-named “Northern Nigeria Petroleum Corporation”, no other section is considered qualified for appointment to top positions in that establishment except people from one particular area of the country.
If you go to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), some federal ministries like Agriculture, Defence, Education, Federal Capital Territory, the Presidency, etc., you will not hear any other language except from one particular section of the country. Unless you are from that particular area, you may even lose your way in these federal government agencies, due to language or communication problem!
Worst still, headships of various branches of the Nigerian security agencies, like the Armed Forces and the Police, are no go areas. These are exclusively reserved for people from one particular section of the country. You begin to ask: what type of federalism is Nigeria practising, where all the sensitive positions in the country are monopolized or occupied by people from one particular area?
The current clamouring by various groups and individuals for sectional Nigerian President, or for outright secession from Nigeria, is due to frustration, since many of these people are no longer comfortable with a system where some people believe that they alone own Nigeria, while people from the other sections are mere onlookers. These people corner all the good positions in the country, leaving others to scramble for the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.
The Federal Character Commission should therefore live up to its responsibility. It should be alive to its constitutionally assigned mandate of ensuring that all positions in both the federal civil service and federal government agencies are equitably distributed to all sections of the country.
Many people, no doubt, have lost confidence in the political entity called Nigeria, because of the way the country is currently being run, like a cult, where only members of the inner circle, or the cabals, decide what happens, and who gets what.
For the Federal Character Commission to renkindle people’s interest in the entity called Nigeria, they should embark on a total inventory of all positions in the federal public service, find out who occupies which position, where each occupant comes from, and then get the information published for all to see. Later, they should embark on the redistribution of these positions in accordance with the mandate of their office.
This is the only thing that will give many people in the country a sense of belonging and make them repose confidence in the entity called Nigeria. This will ultimately help put an end to agitations for separatism or for Presidents of ethnic extraction.