By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
A Statement By The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) Condemning The Recent Skewed Promotions in The Nigerian Customs Service and All Key Appointments of Northerners Into Juicy Offices Since The Inception of President Buahri’s Administration, and blaming the unequal redistribution of national wealth for the Worsening State of Insecurity in The Northern Region of The Country.
Plural and sharply divided societies all over the World attempt to manage their diversities and divisive tendencies through one or more combinations of policy alternatives in the organization and management of their public services for performance; and Nigeria is not an exception.
As often times, as experts have rightly noted, these policy alternatives turn out to be delicate arrangements; but when carefully conceived, crafted and practiced, it provides opportunity for centre-seeking and centre-fleeing forces to interact peacefully and co-habit on agreed terms.
One of such policy alternatives adopted for the management of the public service in Nigeria for even representation is the federal character principle, which “was borne out of the need to ensure even spread of government appointments in all the regions, states and local government councils in the country.
Nigeria as a federal society comprising 36 states structure with a population of more than 200 million people and has more than 450 ethnic groups with three clearly dominant and populous Ethnicities of Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa necessitates an arrangement that could accommodate people from the different segments of the country in the public bureaucracy. The notion of federal character therefore presupposes the existence of a federal society.
However, as a federal state, Nigeria was faced with the challenge of how to imbibe the principle of federalism in practice. As a result, the quota system was introduced into the Nigerian public service in 1958 by the government “to ensure equitable representation of the various groups in the country.
To further consolidate on the gains of the quota system, the Federal Military Government of Generals Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo in the drafting and approval of the 1979 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the transition to civilian rule (1976-79) introduced into the Nigerian political and administrative landscapes, the principle of federal character, which sought to give “opportunities in education and employment, usually at the point of entry, to disadvantaged groups and areas to enable them compete and catch up with more advanced areas and sectors of the nation”.
The principle of federal character was formulated and put into use by successive governments in Nigeria to address and hopefully mitigate the problem of diversity so as to ensure a peaceful, stable and united Nigeria. The question begging for answer now is whether the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has been able to respect the principle of federal character and it’s laudable goals of National integration.
Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution provides: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”
This means that the composition of the Government of the federation or any of its agencies, shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies.
More so, Section 157 provides that appointment by the President into the offices of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Head of Service of the Federation, Ambassadors, or the principal representatives abroad, Permanent Secretary or other Chief Executive in any Ministry or Department of the federal Government, or any office on the personal staff of the president shall have regard to the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity.
However, in a continued flagrant disregard to these provisions, the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has seen deep seated Northern Moslems domination of all strategic federal appointments including the recent skewed appointment of two new Acting Deputy Comptrollers-General of Customs and five Acting Assistant Comptrollers -General of Customs, all from the North, into management position of the Service by the Comptroller General of Customs Col. Hamid Alli (Rtd).
Apart from the latest appointees of the customs, which could best designate that agency as Northern Custom Services, Northerners are holding Juicy positions since Buhari came into power, such as, in the Sea Ports, Air Ports, Immigration, Police, DSS, NNPC, FIRS, just to mention but a few.
It is regrettable that even within the core Moslem North which enjoys the topmost juicy federal appointments made so far since the last five years of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, there is a widening rift between the few elite who have cornered all the juicy positions on the offer but are controlling over ninety percent of the national wealth and the mass of poor street Children and discontented but restive YOUTHS who out of frustration of being left behind in the apparent bazaar and sharing of national wealth by a few of their educated elites, have launched large scale social upheavals/violent skirmishes in the forms of armed banditry and outright unleashing of blood cuddling violence on soft targets in the North leading to destruction of many towns and communities and the massive migration from Nigeria to Niger Republic in search of security by millions of ordinary Northerners.
Our position and demand
In the last five years, the current administration has planted animosity between different Ethnic nationalities than even the civil war created and that it will take the Grace of God and the will to overpower our differences for Nigeria to rebuild the bridge of unity that the selective administrative style of President Muhammadu Buhari has destroyed in the last five years.
The dangers in the dominance of only Moslem Northerners running all the internal security Architectures; Customs, Immigration, Police, DSS, NIA is seen in the near collapse of Far North because elements from that side are allowed to ship in weapons and being overlooked because they are brothers but sadly that region is being destabilized.
This destabilization has affected all parts of Nigeria because the North that used to be the Food basket of Nigeria has no more Agricultural base because of terrorism and insecurity which heightened by the deliberate sabotage of the Northern tilted internal security Architectures.
We are by this statement calling for balance and immediate reorganization of all these departments if stability and national security is to be restored. The federal character and quota system as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria is to ensure equitable distributions of bureaucratic and political roles in the public service at federal, states and local government levels.
The objectives of the policy are to foster national unity and give every Nigerian a sense of belonging in the country in an effort to readdress the unbalanced structure and ethnic domination in government so that national integration could be achieved. Sadly, the Federal Government under President Buhari is playing up those faultlines by promoting only Muslim northerners.
Therefore, we urge the Federal Character Commission established under section 153 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution to live up to its mandates empowered in section 8(1) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution to oversee and monitor the implementation of the federal character clauses.
Perhaps we need to remind this Commission that its mandates are:
i. Work out an equitable formula subject to the approval of the National Assembly for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service of the Federation and of the States, the armed forces of the Federation, the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies, government-owned companies and parastatals of the States;
ii. Promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principle of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government;
iii. Take such legal measures, including prosecution of the head or staff of any ministry or government body or agency which fails to comply with any federal character principle or formula prescribed by the Commission, and as provided for in Section 8(3) of the Schedule, iv. Notwithstanding any provisions in any other law or enactment, the Commission shall ensure that every public company or corporation reflects the federal character in the appointment of its directors and senior management staff. SADLY, EVEN THE FEDERAL CHARACTER COMMISSION HAS NO FEDERAL CHARACTER PRINCIPLE IN THE APPOINTMENTS OF BOTH THE CHAIRMAN AND EXECUTIVE SECRETARY COMING FROM NOTHERN NIGERIA. SO IF THE BODY SET UP TO DEFEND A POLICY IS ITSELF A SERIAL ABUSER OF SAME POLICY WHAT BECOMES OF THE ESSENCE?
This is pertinent because, as we have noted in an earlier statement, we are apprehensive that the deep seated Northern Moslems domination of all strategic federal appointments under President Muhammadu Buhari, the next government may need to convoke a year-long National Constitutional Conference to try to mend the deeply broken fences. WE REPEAT OUR WARNING AND CAUTION THAT THE PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI ADMINISTRATION HAS DRAGGED NIGERIA BACK BY 60 YEARS BECAUSE OF THE PREVALENCE OF HIS REGIME’S UNREPENTANT PENCHANT FOR APPOINTING ONLY NORTHERN MOSLEMS INTO TOP POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC OFFICES OF THE FEDERATION. THE RECENT APPOINTMENTS IN THE NIGERIAN CUSTOMS MUST BE ANNULED SO THERE IS A BROAD SPECTRUM OF REPRESENTION OF THE DIVERSE INTERESTS AND GROUPS UNLESS AND EXCEPT WE ARE NOW BEING TOLD THAT THE NIGERIA CUSTOMS IS NORTHERN CUSTOMS SERVICE AND IF THAT IS THE CASE, THE BASIS OF ONE NIGERIA IS RUBBISHED.
More worrisome is that though, the current Government under President Muhammadu Buhari has skewed all strategic appointments to favour his cronies and political affiliates in the Core Moslem North and a sprinkling of some Christian Northerners, millions of Northerners are still left marginalised just like the heavily marginalised Southerners under the current administration, which is the result for the total state of anarchy in the North. The Federal Government of Nigeria must be seen to be truly the central government unifying all Nigerians towards a common nation building goals and objectives.
HURIWA recalled that Controversy has continued to trail the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) appointment of two new Acting Deputy Comptrollers-General of Customs and five Acting Assistant Comptrollers -General of Customs, all from the North, into management position of the Service by the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hamid Alli (Rtd).
Recall that in a statement made available to newsmen recently, the Public Relations Officer of the service, Mr Joseph Attah said the newly appointed Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs were DCG Abdullahi Babani to head HRD, and DCG Mohammed Boyi, NCS TRADOC.
“Other Assistant Comptroller-Generals (ACG) of Customs appointed into management positions are Saidu Galadima in charge of ICT/Modernization; ACG SM Modibbo for Zone ‘B’ HQ; ACG Uba Mohammed for E,I&I; ACG Hamza Gummi to head T&T, and ACG Usman Dakingari in charge of Doctrine and Development.
Five other DCG’s were redeployed. They are DCG David Chikan moved from TRADOC to FATS, Comptroller Mohammed Auwal moved from PHI to PHII, Comptroller Yusuf Garba moved from Kebbi to PHI, Comptroller Hafiz Kalla deployed to Kebbi from FATS (TS) and Comptroller Bello Jibo from Bauchi/Gombe to Seme Border.