President Muhammadu Buhari

The Human Rights Law Service HURILAWS, has asked Federal Character Commission to compel the Federal Government to implement Federal Character Principle in appointment of members of the Board Directors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, or face a legal action.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had recently approved appointments in the Board of Directors of the NNPC comprising Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu (South-South), Dr. Maikanti Baru (North East), Mr. Abba Kyari (North East), Mr. Mahmoud Isa-Dutse (North Central), Dr. Pius O. Akinyelure (South west), Dr. Tajuddeen Umar (North East), Dr Thomas M.A John (South South), Mallam Mohammed Lawal and Mallam Yusuf Lawal also from the north to the exclusion of the South East contrary to the Federal Character principle.

In a letter with the caption ‘Re: Appointment of Board of Directors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’ dated September 9, 20117 addressed to Dr. Shettima Abba, acting chairman of the commission, the Rights group observed that the recent appointments did not comply with the principle of Federal Character as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as it excluded the South East geopolitical zone of the country.

The Group warned that if this was not done within seven days, it will be compelled to institute a legal action against the government.

The letter signed by Collins Okeke, a senior legal officer reads in part: “We write to draw your attention to appointments made by the Federal Government into the Board of Directors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation”

“You can see that three members of the board are from the North East and the South East has no representation. This is a clear violation of the Federal Character principle enshrined in section 14(3) of the Constitution to ensure proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government in Nigeria”.

Section 14 (3) of the 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”.

The group therefore requested the commission to compel the Federal Government to comply with the Federal Character Principle in the appointment of members of Board of NNPC and all such similar appointments.

According to the letter, by denying the South East representation on the board of an important national corporation such as the NNPC, the Federal Government has discriminated against the South East by subjecting citizens from the South East to disabilities or restrictions which other regions of Nigeria are not subject.

The Group also cited section 42 (1) of the Constitution, which provides that ‘a citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject;…’.

“As you well know, the function of the Federal Character Commission in Section 4 (1)(b) of the Federal Character Commission Act CAP F7 LFN 2004 is to monitor, promote and enforce compliance with the Federal character principle by ensuring that each region of Nigeria is fairly represented at all levels of government”. “We request that the commission compels the Federal Government to comply with the Constitution in appointment of the Board of Directors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, failing which after seven days we shall initiate legal proceedings”, the letter also said.

Many political watchers had over the last two years accused the Federal Government of making lopsided appointments in various segments and agencies of the government, especially skewed against the South East.

They have argued that this seeming lopsided appointments significantly contributes to the increasing agitations and political tension in the country, arguing that Nigeria has never been this divided along ethnic and religious lines, which does not promote national unity and cohesion.