The nomination of Dr. Muheeba Dankaka as chairman of the Federal Character Commission (FCC) by President Muhammadu Buhari has refreshed the controversy over the president’s perceived non-application of the principle of federal character in his key appointments.
The President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, had on Tuesday read the president’s letter seeking Senate approval for the nomination of Dankaka and 37 others as chairman and members of the commission, instituted by Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, to ensure that no section of the country dominates appointments to the federal government and its agencies.
Specifically, the section 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.”
FCC is saddled with the responsibility of enforcing this constitutional provision.
Dankaka’s nomination is said to be in conflict with this provision of the constitution on the ground that she is from Kwara State, Northern Nigeria, she ought not to have been so nominated because the secretary of the commission, Mr. Muhammad Tukur, is from Taraba State also from the North.
The critics’ argument is that this pattern of appointment negates the constitution, the enabling law and convention.
They refer to Section 4 of the enabling law, Federal Character Commission Act No 34 of 1996, to buttress their argument. It states: “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.”
For them, the two principal positions are the chairman and secretary of the commission and by the spirit and letters of the law, they ought to be distributed between the North and the South.
They also summon convention as their witness, saying past administrations have maintained a balance in appointments between the two principal geo-political zones.
According to them, a brief history of the leadership of the commission shows that from 1996 till date, there have been lopsided appointments of the executive chairmen of the commission.
For instance, Alhaji Adamu Fika from Yobe in North-east; Alhaji Bello Kofabai from Katsina in the North-west and Professor Shuaibu Oba Abdul Raheem from Kwara in the North-central, have held the position since 1996.
In acting capacity, the chairmanship of the commission has been held by Alhaji Muhammadu Ari-Gwaska from North-central; Alhaji Ibrahim Funtua, from Katsina in the North-west; Alhaji Muhammad Alkali from Kebbi in North-west; Dr. Shettima Bukar Abba from Borno in the North-east; Mr. Abayomi Sheba from Ondo in the South-west, and Ambassador Shinkafi from Zamfara State, the current acting chairman whose tenure ended on April 20, 2020, after two terms in office is from the North-west.
THISDAY gathered that during the period under review, the position of the substantive secretary was held by southerners, including Mr. A. O. Effenga from South-south; Mr. O. P Emerhan from South-south; Prof. Francis Durosinmi-Etti from South-west; and Mr. Rex-Ogbuku from South-south.
In acting capacity, Mr. David O. Fakeye from South-west and Mr. Jonas C. Umeh from South-east have also held the position.
The incumbent secretary is Tukur, who was appointed by Buhari in March 2017 for an initial tenure of four years, which would end in February 2021, is from Taraba State in the North-east.
THISDAY gathered that according to the principle of federal character, as contained in the Act governing the commission, leadership positions ought to be equally distributed between zones.
The implication, it was learnt, would be that the chairmanship position should, going by the principle of federal character and as stated in the constitution, automatically, go to the southern part of the country.
This North-South balance had been established by the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who had appointed northerners as chairmen and southerners as secretaries.
“When Mr. President appointed Mohammed Bello Tukur, the Legal Adviser of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) as the secretary of the Federal Character Commission, many thought it was to pave the way for the first Southern chairman of the commission. That was not to be,” said a displeased senator who preferred anonymity, adding: “Instead in a rather brazen act, the penultimate Ag. Chairman, Mallam Shettima, rather than handover to a southern commissioner handed over to the secretary of the commission.”
The senator, who urged his colleagues not to confirm the nomination of the chairman of the commission, accused the Buhari administration of consistently violating “one of the most ingenious and ambitious affirmative actions entrenched in our constitution to promote national unity uniquely named federal character.”
“This consistent negation of a critical national consensus should be resisted and rejected by all well-meaning Nigerians starting from the Senate. The seeds of national discord have been systematically sowed over the past five years and should be halted,” he alleged.
The senator urged the Senate to defend the supremacy of the constitution and the need to build an inclusive state.
Buhari, in a letter dated 18th March 2020 to the President of the Senate, nominated Dankaka, a businesswoman, who was also a former president of Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KADCCIMA), as the chairperson of FCC and 37 others as members of the board.
The 37 members are Henry Ogbulogo, Salihu Bello, Obonganwan Ebong, Ibeabuchi Uche, Mohammed Tijjani, Tonye Okio, Silas Macikpah, Abba Monguno and Nsor Atamgba.
Others are Alims Agoda, Tobias Chukwuemeka (deceased), Imuetinyan Festus, Sesan Fatoba, Ginika Florence Tor, Hamza Mohammed, Diogu Uche, Lawan Roni and Hadiza Muazu.
Also appointed are Muhammad Na‘iya, Lawal Garba, Abubakar Bunu, Idris Bello, Daniel Kolo, Are Bolaji, Nasir Kwara, Maj. Gen. Suleiman Said (rtd) and Abiodun Akinlade.
Buhari also appointed Olufemi Omosanya, Adeoye Olalekan, Adeniyi Olowofela, Stephen Jings, Wokocha Augustine, Abdullahi Tafida, Armaya’u Abubakar, Jibril Maigari, Sani Garba and Adamu Sidi-Ali.
The appointment was contained in a letter, which was read out by Lawan, at plenary on Tuesday.