President Muhammadu Buhari is being accused of violating the federal character principle in a string of recent appointments at the Federal Ministry of Interior.
The presidency on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 announced the appointments of Mr. Ahmed Ja’afaru as new controller-general of the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) and Mohammed Babandede as new comptroller-general of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).
Following the announcement of the appointments on Tuesday, civil servants in the interior ministry are said to be unhappy and grumbling about the appointments, which is in clear violation of Nigeria’s federal character principle that guides geo-political composition and appointments into the Nigerian civil service.
A top civil service source who did not want to be named told Signal, an online newspaper, on Tuesday that the appointments were in contravention of Nigeria’s Federal Character Act. “Look, we know the kind of country that Nigeria is and that is why the federal character principle exists. You can’t have the minister of interior from the North, the controller-general of prisons from the North, the commandant-general of NSCDC from the North, and the comptroller-general of immigrations from the North all at the same time. Is it that there are no qualified people from other parts of the country? This is unacceptable. It is morally obscene.”
Under President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s interior ministry is organized around five key agencies; the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS), the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), the Federal Fire Service (FFS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). In addition to these five agencies, the Nigeria Civil Defence, Immigration and Prisons Service Board exists and is headed by the minister of interior.
As it currently stands, Ahmed Ja’afaru, the controller-general of the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS); Mohammed Babandede, the comptroller-general the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS); Abdullahi Muhammadu the commandant-general of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and Joseph Garba Anebi, the comptroller-general of the Federal Fire Service as well as their overall boss, the minister of interior, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd) are all from the Northern part of Nigeria.
In 2014, former President Jonathan appointed Dr. Peter Ezenwa Ekpendu, mni as substantive controller-general of the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS). Ekpendu was appointed following the retirement of the former controller-general of prisons, Mr. Zakari O. Ibrahim. NAN reports on Tuesday that Ekpendu retired from service on May 17, 2016 after the mandatory 35 years in service.
The “federal character” principle has been enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution since 1979. It seeks to ensure that appointments to public service institutions fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and geographic diversity of the country.
In the guiding principles and formula for the distribution of all cadres of posts across the country, the Act stipulates in its Part 1 that (1) “Each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory shall be equitably represented in all national institutions and in public enterprises and organisations. (2) The best and the most competent persons shall be recruited from each state of the federation to fill positions reserved for the indigenes of the FCT.”
The political offices covered by the Act include:
- Ministers of Cabinet rank
- Ministers of State;
- Special Adviser to the President;
- Non‐career heads of Nigerian diplomatic missions;
- Chairmen and members of Statutory Federal agencies.
Recall that a human rights group, Kingdom Human Rights Foundation (KHRF) had dragged President Muhammadu Buhari to a Federal High Court in Abuja alleging lopsidedness in the appointments of service chiefs and composition of the government of the federation.
In the suit with No, FCH/ABJ/CS/737/2015, the group is claiming that the present composition and appointment of the service chiefs mainly from the North-east, of North-west, North-central and South-west intentionally excluded the Igbos of the South-east and therefore did not comply with the federal character principle of Nigeria.
Nigeria’s deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu has also publicly accused President Buhari of violating the provisions of the Federal Character Act.