Nigeria Independence

Says N’Assembly not doing enough on federal character
As FG tasks FCC on equity in distribution of infrastructural facilities

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

CONTRARY to the position of the Federal Government that the unity of the country is non-negotiable, Chairman of Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator Danjuma La’ah has said that the corporate existence of Nigeria cannot be said to be non-negotiable through coercion or dictatorship.

He also said that the unity of the country should be built around justice, inclusiveness, fair-play and equity as pillars of true democracy.

Senator La’ah, who Is representing Kaduna South Senatorial District in the senate, also said that the National Assembly especially the senate has not done well in ensuring that the federal character is strictly observed in the distribution of infrastructure and positions.

Speaking at the opening session of workshop on sensitization and public enlightenment on socio-economic amenities and infrastructural facilities in Abuja, Senator La’ah said the Federal Character Commission, FCC, has not lived up to its mandate by ensuring that positions were distributed evenly.

The theme of the workshop was “Integrating strategic partnership with critical stakeholders and sensitization on the socio-economic mandate of the Federal Character Commission.”

According to him, “As most of you are already aware, the Federal Character Commission and the two Committees on Federal Character in the Senate and House of Representatives in the National Assembly exist to work together to ensure inclusiveness in all aspects of governance at the national level.

“The purpose of this inclusive governance is to promote national unity, collective sense of belonging, stability, cohesion and maxImization of the gains of brotherhood wnthin a nation of various cultures, beliefs systems, regional geographical backgrounds and dichotomies.

“To this end, the Federal Character Commission considers it appropriate to bring together Key Stakeholder to brainstorm on issues and conditions that will further enhance the smooth accomplishment of the Commission’s mandate for the growth and Corporate existence of the Nigerian state.

“It is imperative therefore, in a forum such as this, to be open-minded, forthright and frank in all deliberations so that issues which can hinder or obstruct the way(s) to our corporate existence as a nation can be carefully examined and addressed through collective bargaining.

“At this juncture, let me point out the fact that, the things which stabilize nation-hood and make their corporate existence non-negotiable, are not coercion or dictatorship but buiit around justice, inclusiveness, fair-play and equity as pillars of true democracy.

“I believe, therefore, that this Workshop will endeavour to bring into discourse, as central themes, the cardinal ideals of representative democracy – balanced development, equitable distribution of opportunities, structural balance, even allocation of socio-economic amenities and infrastructural facilities and, effective/unbiased protection of all citizens under threat of insecurity.

“Measures to prevent or even prohibit marginalization, discrimination, nepotism, domination and oppression
should be taken seriously as panacea for peaceful coexistence, cohesion and progress.

“In the era of heightened insecurity accompanied by inter-group distrust, hatred and antagonism, there is no better time to call for re-assessment and review of the contribution so far made by the Federal Character Commission towards nation building and how to re-inforce its efforts and that of other agencies/arms of government for full realisation of the principles of Federal Character as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“Thus this workshop is expected to explore ways and means of promoting effective synergy and partnership between Critical Stakeholders and the Commission to help the enforcement of the ideals of Federal Character in all facets of our national life. This will douse the tension generated by political struggles for power/resources which currently threaten the unity of the Nigeria State. This is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.”

Fielding question on how the National Assembly especially the senate had ensured that federal character was respected in distribution of positions, the lawmaker said that the senate had not done enough in ensuring that the spirit of federal character was respected.

He said, “You know with the present administration, we won’t say we are doing enough, but maybe we are not doing enough. But with all these developments, comments must come our way to know actually what is wrong. But we know that so many things have gone wrong, and we are trying to correct them by all means.”

Also asked whether in his capacity as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Character, the federal character commission in its entirety has actualized its mandate on equitable distribution of infrasture and personnel to unity of the country, he said the commission has not performed on its mandate.

He said, “Certainly, they have not lived up to expectation. But as it is now, with this programme. It is a way forward and we are looking forward to make sure that we improve…”

In his keynote address, the Secretary to the government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, the understanding of many Nigerians was that the Commission only deals with promoting, monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Federal Character principle (proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government).

He said that the Act establishing the commission as well as the 1999 Constitution (as Amended) goes beyond that.

“Specifically, the Federal Character Commission is one of the 14 Federal Executive Bodies established by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to give effect to the provisions of Section 14 (3) & (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The Commission is also empowered by its Establishment Act to ensure equitable distribution of Socio-Economic Amenities and Infrastructural facilities in the Country.

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“I am happy to observe that the theme of the workshop and topics for discussions, have been carefully chosen to ensure harnessing the views of strategic partners for the integration of a balanced development in our great country. This will no doubt ensure national stability, peace and economic prosperity.

“I therefore urge the Commission to continue in not only focusing on post and personnel but to also commit itself to the mandate on equitable distribution of socio-economic amenities and infrastructural facilities.

“This workshop could not have come at a better time when the Federal Government is dedicating a huge percentage of the national budget to the provision of infrastructural facilities in the country.

“The provision of infrastructure is one of the cardinal principles of the Buhari administration. This is premised on the fact that no nation can develop without putting up the necessary infrastructure to spur economic growth and ensure self-reliance. This is why the Federal Government is investing in the roads, railways, power, agriculture, education, communication and digital economy, and other sectors that are critical to our national development.

“The workshop should therefore come up with concrete resolutions to guide the Federal Government to further ensure equity in the distribution of infrastructural facilities and social amenities in the country. The Commission should after these deliberations, move to action and commence in earnest the monitoring of projects, across all sectors in order to ensure fairness in the distributions.”

In her welcome address, the Executive Chairman of the FCC, Dr. Muheeba Dankaka, said the commission has devoted the greater part of its existence to the institutionalization and domestication of the federal character principle in the operations of the Nigerian civil/public service.

She said, “Interaction with MDAs over the years have recorded considerable level of acceptance and compliance with the federal character principle. With this level of compliance by the MDAs, the commission has decided to commence the implementation of its second mandate of ensuring equitable distribution of socio-economic amenities and infrastructural facilities nationwide.

“The commission has the constitutional mandate to monitor the equitable allocation and distribution of projects and programmes, to ensure equity and fairness within the federation and evaluate the spread of socio-economic activities as represented by the location of projects in Nigeria and ensure compliance.

“The observance of the principle of equity, fairness, and social justice is indispensable for the building of any enduring nation. Therefore, the commission welcomes collaboration and assistance from the government agencies, external development partners, the private and public sectors, non-governmental organizations, and civil society organizations.”

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