Sunday, April 14, 2024

EDITORIAL: Acting out of character at the Federal Character Commission

Nigerians have been recently regaled with tales of the absurd emanating from the Federal Character Commission, a very important agency of government established on December 27, 1995 to play a critical role in ensuring that every citizen is given a sense of belonging and that no part of the country is negelcted or seen to be negelcted in sharing the commonwealth.

The statutes that gave life to the FCC endows it with enviable powers and privileges, apparently to enable an uncluttered delivery on its mandate. For instance, Part 1(3) of the FCC Act states, “The Commission shall not be subject to the direction, control or supervision of any other authority or person in the performance of its functions under this Act other than the President.” There are not many, if any, institutions that enjoy this type of special privilege.

Those who created the commission were definitely driven by nationalistic sentiments to ensure, by law, that every part of the country is given commensurate opportunity to serve in all institutions established by governments at various levels and even in the private sector. This equitable representation begins with membership of the commission, which must statutorily have a representative from each state of the federation and from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The chairman and members of the Commission shall be appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate.

To fully appreciate the importance of the FCC, a quick examination of some its of functions is necessary. Among other expectations, the commission is supposed to:
(a) Work out an equitable formula, subject to the approval of the President, for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the civil and the public services of the federation and of the states, the armed forces, the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, bodies corporate owned by the federal or a state government and extra-ministerial departments and parastatals of the federation and states.

(b) Promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.

(c) Take such legal measures, including the prosecution of the heads or staff of any ministry, extra-ministerial department or agency which fails to comply with any federal character principle or formula prescribed or adopted by the Commission.

(d) Work out

(i) an equitable formula, subject to the approval of the President, for distribution of socio-economic services, amenities and infra structural facilities;
(ii) modalities and schemes, subject to the approval of the President, for redressing the problems of imbalances and reducing the fear of relative deprivation and marginalisation in the Nigerian system of federalism as it obtains in the public and private sectors.

(e) Intervene in the operation of any agency of the Federal Government, subject to the approval of the President, where in the opinion of the Commission the function of the agency concerned is relevant to the functions of the Commission and the Commission is of the opinion that it is not being effectively implemented

(f) Advise the federal, state, and local governments to intervene and influence providers of services, goods and socio-economic amenities to extend such services, goods and socio-economic amenities to deprived areas of the country

(g) Ensure that all ministries and extra-ministerial departments, agencies and other bodies affected by this Act have a clear criteria indicating conditions to be fulfilled and comprehensive guidelines on the procedure fordetermining eligibility and the procedure for employment in the public and private sectors of the economy.

One good thing that the current sordid expose at the FCC has done is that by beaming searchlight on the commission, many discerning Nigerians who hitherto were not aware of the existence or functions of this very important institution now know and will make it a duty to interrogate goings on in that establishment, going forward.

“What is very clear, without a doubt, is that the FCC under Dankaka has failed woefully in the discharge of its avowed functions”

It is unfortunate that a body like the FCC created to take care of the peculiarities of the country’s multi-ethnic, culture and religious composition in making sure that they are equitably represented in all national and state-owned institutions wound-up as a cesspit of embarrassing corruption. There have been many disturbing revelations at the ongoing investigative hearing by the House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating federal ministries, departments and agencies, parastatals and tertiary institutions on mismanagement of the IPPIS.

Shocking allegations and counter-allegations pointing to the alleged involvement of the Chairperson of the commission, Muheeba Dankaka, in selling federal employment slots to job seekers have left not a few spellbound, while Dankaka has insisted there was a gang-up against her by some of her commissioners. The POINT believes that part of the objective of the probe by federal legislators is to determine the veracity or otherwise of such claims.

What is very clear, without a doubt, is that the FCC under Dankaka failed woefully in the discharge of its avowed functions. Perhaps, if the commission was diligent in discharging its assignment, some of the costly internal conflicts that have taken a toll on our security agencies and dealt the economy an adverse blow would have been avoided, as part of the root causes of these dissentment can be traced to marginalisation, whether perceived or real, of parts of the country.

The House of Representatives should be commended for instituting this probe. However, we demand that it should not follow the pattern of previous inquisitions where its report would be wrapped in secrecy. Although, the Dankaka-led management of the FCC came on board during the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the current government at the centre, led by President Bola Tinubu, cannot entirely wash its hands clean from complicity because both Nigerian leaders were sponsored on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, which has fight against corruption as one of the major pillars of its promise to the people.

The FCC Act states that a member may only be removed from office by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate praying that he be so removed for inability to discharge the functions of the office. We are convinced that the final report of the federal lawmakers would provide all the grounds needed to request Mr. President to act decisively on the matter, to serve as a strong warning that no one who handles the responsibility of his high office with levity would go scot free. Nigerians are watching!

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