Standardising recruitment to boost efficiency
With the intention of preventing sectional domination among the diverse elements in Nigeria, political management of the country’s vast human resources has been identified early as a tool to promote unity and engender inclusion in the staffing of government bureaucracy.
For a country that has gone through a civil war and which is still being held together by a fragile string of unity continually threatened by ethnic, sectional and religious crises under a mutually-suspicious tensed political arrangement, appointments and recruitment into state-owned institutions have become an instrument of unity, inclusiveness and assurance.
Ensuring equal involvement in matters of governance and distribution of resources became the cornerstone of promoting unity in diversity that came to the fore in the early formative years of Nigeria to lay the foundation for a political entity populated by peoples of diverse cultures.
Although there are valid arguments that the principle is promoting mediocrity, denying Nigerians of equal opportunities and promoting sectional interests, its removal will create a big burden on the frail neck of national unity.
The establishment of the Federal Character Commission (FCC), an executive body established by Act No 34 of 1996 as amended and labelled as ‘FCC Act. Cap F7 laws of the Federation of Nigeria’, therefore became the legal backbone in the implementation of the provision of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution for equitable distribution of positions in government.
In line with the spirit behind the establishment of the FCC, the body is charged with the responsibility of implementing and enforcing the federal character principle through a formula for equal distribution of public posts, socio-economic amenities and infrastructural facilities among the country’s federating units. Specifically, section 14 (a), (b) and 153 of the constitution also empowers the commission to operate under a democratic setting.
With the declaration of a guideline in the filling of positions in all cadres of public service including the uniformed forces, the FCC coordinates recruitments and ensure even spread in the nominal roll of all government parastatals in consonance with the federal character principle.
However, there have been a lot of concerns about whether the commission is actually living up to expectations when the public space was inundated with a lot of lop-sidedness in government appointments especially since the inception of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
While some of the allegations could be described as fallouts of antics of opposition politicians to create a hostile environment for the ruling party, there are genuine concerns that many government establishments have not been following due process in involving the FCC in their recruitment and staffing procedures.
This much was made known by the acting Chairman of the commission, Hon. Abayomi Sheba, a former member of the House of Representatives who expressed concerns that some agencies were actually not doing what was constitutionally expected of them in the process of recruitment.
Speaking with The Guardian in Abuja, Sheba who before his elevation once headed the Petroleum Resources Committee of the FCC, one of the 24 operational committees of the commission set up to monitor compliance of government agencies, threatened that henceforth any breach of the federal character principle will be met with appropriate sanctions.
According to him, “we are no longer going to fold our arms and watch as some agencies of government recruit with impunity not following the procedure laid down by the constitution. Initially we were only doing advocacy and walking the soft path but now, we are going to wield the big stick on any erring agency. The reason for which the FCC was set up, which is mainly to promote the unity of Nigeria and prevent domination, should be protected by all those who love this country.”
The FCC boss mentioned the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as one of the agencies of government not toeing the right path in its process of recruitment mistaking staffing with commitments to its mandate area, which is limited to the oil-producing Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
Sheba explained that there is a distinction between the mandate areas of operations and the statutory nationwide recruitment request, “because the resources being expended in the agency’s operations were taken from the federal purse, they are therefore obliged to abide by the federal character principle in their staffing.”
He however gave kudos to some government agencies that had been following the procedure of compliance naming the Federal Fire Service (FFS) as one of them.
According to him: “In the last recruitment that the FFS did where about one thousand applicants were absorbed, the FCC was fully carried along and all the procedures were followed as the federal character principle was strictly adhered to in line with the constitution.
Many more are in the mould of the FFS but as we are wielding the big stick on erring agencies, we are also going to encourage the obedient ones.
“There are over 600 MDAs of government and the FCC has the duty of scrutinizing their staff list and monitoring their recruitment process to ensure their compliance with our mandate which we will not compromise in any way.”
The FCC boss, whose appointment has entrenched the federal character principle in the commission itself, commended President Buhari for creating a conducive atmosphere for the commission to thrive and act according to its mandate.
The emergence of Sheba who is from the Southwest and a Secretary from the Northeast, after a lull that gave rise to speculations that the FCC was running foul of its own principle was in accordance with Section 4 of the subsidiary legislation of the commission.
The section states: “Where the number of positions available cannot go round the states of the federation or the Federal Capital, the distribution shall be on zonal basis. But in the case where two positions are available, the positions shall be shared between the northern and southern zones.”
By aligning itself with statutory provisions, the FCC has sent out a signal that an end has come to impunity in lopsided government appointments so that the dream of unity by the Nigerian constitution would be realized.
Before Sheba’s appointment in acting capacity by President Buhari last month, the two topmost positions in the FCC were held by the Northeastern geopolitical zone, a development that sent tongues wagging about the inability of the commission to abide by the letters of its own mandate.
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