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When the character is not federal


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Under and by virtue of section 2 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), ‘Nigeria shall be one indivisible and indissoluble Sovereign State to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’.

By section 2 (2) thereof, ‘Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory.

The concept of a Federation is the coming together of several units to form a common government to actualize certain common purposes. The diversities are harnessed in such a way as to achieve equity, fairness and unity.

In a Federation, certain limited resources are pulled together with a defined arrangement which outlines ownership and control thereof.

Nigeria’s claim to a federal system of government has been roundly defeated by the antics of successive military regimes, most oftentimes executing an agenda that seems always to tilt in favour of some segments of the Federation.

Under the military regimes, there is centralization, resulting from its normal chain of command. Properly speaking, therefore, one may not be totally wrong to say that the Federal Republic of Nigeria commenced its operation on May 29, 1999, when the military yielded power to its civilian counterpart. 

Arising from the report of the Sir Henry Willink Commission, it became necessary to address the fears of the minorities by inserting certain provisions in the Constitution in order to achieve national integration and cohesion. There was a need for some kind of protection from the dominance of the majority ethnic groups who were always sure of victory at any given election because of their numbers.

Accordingly, section 14 (3) provides that ‘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 States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.’ This is simple enough, for anyone who truly desires to practice equity and justice in running the Federation.

The Constitution has imposed a prohibition against tribalism, ethnicity, bigotry and clannishness of any form whatsoever, but our leaders have not ceased to deploy these as weapons of division, selfishly to their own political advantage.

So the questions to answer in this regard are legion: why should only one ethnic group rule over the Federal Capital Territory? Why should one section of Nigeria dominate the security agencies and institutions?

How come the major revenue agencies and parastatals are under the firm grip of one particular ethnic group; Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Ports Authority, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Etc.

In section 15 (2) of the Constitution, it is stated clearly that ‘national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited. How else do we desire to outlaw tribalism and nepotism, when the Constitution itself has expressly prohibited it?

The Federal Character Commission was established by law in December 1995, with the responsibility to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of the proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.

The Functions of the Commission are listed in section 4 of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, Etc) Act as follows:   
(1) The functions of the Commission shall be‐   

(a)   to 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) to 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) to 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) to work out – (i) an equitable formula, subject to the approval of the President, for the distribution of socio‐economic services, amenities and infrastructural 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) to 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) to 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) to ensure that all Ministries and Extra‐Ministerial Departments, agencies and other bodies affected by this Act have clear criteria indicating conditions to be fulfilled and comprehensive guidelines on the procedure for (i) determining eligibility and the procedure for employment in the public and private sectors of the economy;  (ii) the provision of social services, goods and socio‐economic amenities in Nigeria;   

To be continued tomorrow
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)


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