The Federal Character Commission (FCC) is operating with only one commissioner out of the 37 required by law. Daily Trust’s findings showed that the other 36 commissioners have served out their tenures but have not been replaced by the federal government.

The current Acting Executive Chairman of the commission, Amb. Abdullahi Halidu Shinkafi, is the only remaining federal commissioner at the agency. The commission’s official website also showed it is operating without 36 commissioners out of the 37 approved by the Federal Character Act.

It was gathered that Amb. Shinkafi’s tenure as a commissioner representing Zamfara State would expire in April and the commission would be left without a single commissioner. And so far, there are no indications as to when commissioners would be appointed as, the Presidential spokesperson, Mr Femi Adesina, when contacted on the issue told Daily Trust that he had no information on the matter.

Mandate of FCC

The FCC is a federal government body established by Act No 34 of 1995 to implement and enforce the federal character principle of fairness and equity in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructure among the various federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The provisions of the 1999 Constitution in sections 14 and 153 consolidated the establishment of the FCC for operation in a democratic system of government.

The commission is mandated by Paragraphs 8(1)(a) and (b) of Section C, part 1, Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to, “Work out an equitable formula, subject to the approval of the National Assembly, for distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service of the federation and of the states, the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force, other government security agencies and government-owned companies/parastatals of the states.”

It is also mandated to “Promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principle of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government.”

The commission is to also work out and ensure equitable distribution of infrastructure across the federating units of the country.

Gradual deterioration

In December 2018, Daily Trust reported that only seven states had commissioners representing them at the FCC: Katsina, represented by Barr Mahdi Jibril Daura; Zamfara, Ambassador Abdullahi Halidu Shinkafi; and FCT, Dr Yunusa Musa Salihu. Others were Osun, represented by Bashorun Awofisayo; Ondo, Honourable Sheba Abayomi; Edo, Ifaluyi Isibor and Anambra, Mrs Adaeze Gloria Idigo Izundu. Then following states had no representation at the FCC: Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Ekiti and Enugu states. Others were Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba and Yobe states.

By the end of December 2018, the tenures of the commissioners from Anambra, Edo and FCT expired and only four commissioners were left in the commission by January 2019.

By February 2020, the number of commissioners dropped to only one and if replacements are not made by the end of April this year, the commission would be left with no commissioners from the states to monitor its operations. Amb. Shinkafi may likely hand over to the most senior staff in the commission as the acting executive chairman if by April the federal government still fails to appoint new commissioners to replace those that have left.

Appointment of commissioners

Section 2(1) of the Federal Character Act of 1995 provides that members of the commission shall consist of a chairman who shall be the chief executive of the commission; a representative each of the states of the federation; and a representative of the FCT, Abuja.

Subsection 2 provides that the chairman and members of the commission shall be appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. The act further provides in Section 3(1) that the chairman and members of the commission shall hold office for five years in the first instance and for a further term of five years on such terms and conditions as may be specified in their letters of appointment.

The commissioners are expected to meet periodically to ensure that “each state of the federation and the FCT shall be equitably represented in all national institutions and public enterprises and organisations” as outlined in the commission’s guiding principles.

FCC activities suffer

Section 7(4) provides that the quorum for a meeting of the commission shall be “not less than one-third of the total number of members of the commission at the date of the meeting.” Daily Trust gathered that the meetings the commissioners are mandated to hold, at which recruitments into MDAs are supposed to be reviewed to ensure equitable distribution, have not been held for a long time since they could not form a quorum.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source within the FCC said the absence of commissioners has affected policy making and monitoring of recruitment exercises and provided room for job racketeering in MDAs. The source said there are about 24 committees overseeing over 600 MDAs, adding that it is impossible for the single commissioner available now to monitor them.

Besides, the commissioners protect the interests of their individual states and may be unlikely to advance the interests of other states not represented at the commission.

Due to poor monitoring by the FCC, secret recruitments are said to be on going in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). MDAs are legally required to advertise vacancies before recruitment, but in some cases, they obtain waivers from the FCC not to advertise.

Some agencies reported to have indulged in secret recruitments included the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), and National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). Others are the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Nigerian Navy and many more.

In October 2019, Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) Bolaji Owasanoye, revealed that after the commission discovered N9.2bn as over-bloated personnel costs of MDAs, they went on secret recruitments for a cover-up.

“They hurriedly started employing people. Appointments given yesterday were backdated one year, and ad hoc staff upgraded,” he told the joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes at the 2020 budget defence.

He advised that recruitment templates in all agencies of government be changed from offline to prevent recruitment scandals, a task clearly within the mandate of the FCC.

Also, the FCC has, since its inception, not carried out its second mandate, which involves ensuring equitable distribution of infrastructures across the country.

The former Acting Executive Chairman of the Commission, Dr Shettima Bukar Abba, moved to implement the second mandate, but he served out his tenure and exited the commission without doing that.

Under Dr Abba, the FCC, in collaboration with the Budget Ministry initiated an audit of the spread of Nigeria’s total infrastructure stock across the country with the aim of identifying possible lopsidedness and addressing them.

It is not certain if the audit was ever conducted, but certainly the commission has largely ignored the second mandate even as recruitment scandals rock MDAs.