Rights Body Laments Buhari’s Disregard for Federal Character

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A Rights Advocacy Group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has decried what it called continuous breaches of federal character principles by President Muhammadu Buhari, particularly his appointments in PENCOM and National Population Commission despite oppositions.

The body alleged that the President had consistently disregarded the provisions of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution which was negatively impacting on the peace of the nation which they said was based on several principles.

“Specifically, Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution 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 State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.

“Like most Nigerians, HURIWA is not surprised at the controversies that have trailed the appointments of the Director General of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) and the Chairman of the National Population Commission.

“First, it is on record that PenCom; a critical agency tasked with regulating, supervising and ensuring the effective administration of pension matters in Nigeria, has been without a board or substantive head since April 2017.

“Secondly, President Buhari has injected his sectional politics into the National Pension Commission, and further accentuating the leadership crisis bedeviling PENCOM by nominating Aisha Umar from the North-West geopolitical zone as director-general of the regulatory body.

“According to Section 20(1) and section 21(1) and (2) of the National Pension Commission Act 2014: “In the event of a vacancy, the President shall appoint a replacement from the geopolitical zone of the immediate past member that vacated office to complete the remaining tenure.”

“For the records, Anohu-Amazu was appointed DG in 2014 for a renewable five-year term by then President Goodluck Jonathan, but was controversially removed by Buhari in 2017 along with 22 other heads of federal agencies.

“Shortly afterwards, Buhari presented Aliyu Abdurahman Dikko from another zone to the Senate for confirmation as the DG along with five others as chairman and executive commissioners. This immediately provoked a storm of protests. Senators pointed out the illegality of the choice, as “an absolute breach” of the provisions of the Pension Reform Act 2014.

“Unconcerned, President Buhari continued to pursue his sectional mission. Though forced to withdraw Dikko’s candidature, he retained Umar as acting DG since then, perhaps to wait out Anohu-Amazu’s term, which ended in 2019, so as to circumvent the law and deny the South-East zone the slot.

“In a similar development, the appointment of the chairman and members of the National Population Commission (NPC) created fresh controversies in the Nigerian presidency.

“According to media reports, the list of appointees previously published by various media houses had Silas Agara; a Christian named as chairman of the NPC. The other six nominees on the list were Muhammed Dottijo (Sokoto); Razaq Gidado (Kwara); Ibrahim Mohammed (Bauchi); Joseph Shazin (FCT); Bala Banya (Katsina); and Bimbola Salu-Hundeyin (Lagos).

“However, hours after the story was published, presidential spokesperson; Garba Shehu, sent a brief message to reporters saying a different person was confirmed as chairman.

“According to the presidential spokesperson, Nasiru Kwarra; a Muslim was confirmed as chairman of the commission and not Agara. Shehu explained that the earlier circulated name of Agara was a mistake.”

The body insisted that the “dangerous infusion of ethnic politics into delicate Federal sectors such as the PENCOM and NPC is deplorable. Once again, President Buhari has demonstrated his Pro-Northern Moslem agenda which is tearing apart the fabric of national unity. Having sworn to uphold the constitution, he as President, ought to be the embodiment of the ennobling principles of the primacy of the law, national cohesion, equity and inclusiveness.”