President Muhammadu Buhari has been accused of violating the laws guiding the Federal Character Commission, FCC, by the appointments of Barr. Tukur Bello and Dr Farida Muheeba Dankaka, both Northerners, as Secretary and Chairman respectively of the commission.
The Federal Character Commission is the agency saddled with the responsibility of enforcing the section of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which specifies: “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.”
Dankaka, who is from Kwara State, was appointed as the Chairman of the Commission at a time when Tukur, from Taraba State, was acting as the Secretary.
A senior staff of the Commission, who spoke to DAILY POST on condition of anonymity, disclosed that there was a squabble on the floor of the Senate during the confirmation of Dankaka as Chairman, during which the lawmakers promised to.make things right when Tukur finishes his tenure which was then just seven months left.
But shockingly, the Presidency went behind to secretly renew the appointment of Tukur as secretary, thereby leaving the two principal leadership positions of the Federal Character Commission in the hands of two Northerners.
And critics believe that this is in conflict with the provision of the constitution, insisting that Dankaka should not have been appointed by the President because the Secretary on ground prior to her nomination, Tukur, is from Taraba State.
They argue that this pattern of appointment by the President negates the constitution, the enabling law and convention.
The Section 4 of the Federal Character Commission enabling law, Act No 34 of 1996, states that: “Where the number of positions available cannot go round, the states of the federation or the Federal Capital, the distribution shall be on a zonal basis. But in the case where two positions are available, the positions shall be shared between the northern and southern zones.”
The senior staff of the commission who spoke to DAILY POST mentioned that the two principal positions of the FCC are the Chairman and Secretary and by the spirit and letters of the law, they ought to be distributed between the North and the South.
He said that even though the appointment of the principal officers of the commission have been lopsided, past administrations had managed to keep a balance between both regions.
Sharing a brief history of the appointments of leadership.of the commission from 1996 till date, he maintained that the North has occupied the chairman position all these years.
For instance, he said the chairmanship position had been held by Adamu Fika from Yobe; Alhaji Bello Kofabai from Katsina, and Professor Shuaibu Oba Abdul Raheem from Kwara since 1996.
According to the senior staff, “The Federal Character Commission was set up in 1995 and according to the law setting up the commission, it comprises the Chairman and each member from the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT then a secretary.
“From inception, when the Chairman is from the North, the Secretary would be selected from the South irrespective of where it is from the North, be it North East, North West, North Central it doesn’t matter what part of the North.
“The Commission was headed by a Northerner from Yobe State and the Secretary then was from Akwa Ibom. And when the tenure ended, the second Chairman was from Katsina State then the Secretary was from Lagos State.
“The choice of where the Chairman should come from is a prerogative of the President. But the bottom line is that if the Chairman comes from the North, the Secretary must surely come from the South.
“Now the third Chairman was a former Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, from Kwara State and the Secretary came from Bayelsa State. And along the line, either by death or whatever… There was a time we lost a Chairman from the North and someone among the Commissioners was appointed to take over on acting capacity.
“There were so many acting Chairmen after the death but the fourth substantive Chairman, appointed by this administration, was also from the North, Kwara State. And there was a Secretary on ground who is also from the North, Taraba, to be precise.
“And the Chairman met the Secretary on ground. Ordinarily what the administration should have done was to appoint a Chairman from the South because the Secretary on ground is a Northerner but it went ahead to appoint a Chairman from the North and when the Senate wanted to clear her in the Assembly, there was trouble but around that time, it was argued that the tenure of the Secretary will soon end.
“That time the Secretary was left with only 6 to 7 seven months for his tenure to expire. So the Senate said they were going to correct it once the Secretary leaves office . But unfortunately, they now went behind to renew the Secretary’s appointment at the end of the 7 months.
“They now went ahead to renew the appointment of the same Secretary. The tenure was supposed to have ended in April 2021, but it was renewed secretly. And one funny thing is this, you know it is always announced whenever the President makes an appointment, but this time it was not announced. It was not even mentioned.
“It was secretly done. Right now the Secretary and the Chairman are from the North. Chairman I is from the North, the Secretary is from the North. Also, when there were feelers that they did it secretly, they even debated it. There is a group of lawyers that has taken the President to court on this issue. So presently he is from the North, Taraba State. His appointment was secretly renewed.”
The letter of the renewal of Tukur’s appointment recently obtained by DAILY POST, was dated 12 March, 2021, with reference: SGF. 19/S.51/T/9, signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
The letter, entitled: ‘RENEWAL OF APPOINTMENT AS SECRETARY, FEDERAL CHARACTER COMMISSION’, said, “I am pleased to inform you that Muhammadu Buhari, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria has approved the renewal of your appointment as the Secretary, Federal Character Commission, for a final term of four (4) years in accordance with the provision of Section 9 (1) of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.
“This appointment is with effect from 10th April, 2021 and your emoluments and other conditions of service shall be as provided under “The Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc) (Amendment) Act, 2008′
“Please accept my congratulations and best wishes on your appointment.”