From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
Senators were sharply divided along geo-political lines at yesterday plenary over the lack of observance of the federal character principle in federal appointments by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Many senators argued that President Jonathan’s nominations did not adhere to the principles of federal character as enshrined in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Senators expressed reservations about the president’s nominations during confirmation of board appointments into the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
Senate President David Mark equally expressed reservations about the matter. Although he described the reservations of his colleagues as ‘healthy’, Mark said the day of reckoning would soon come.
Mark warned, however, that federal character could not be the ‘end of it all’ at the expense of merit in appointment of Nigerians into government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
He cautioned that the issue of federal character should not be overstretched.
Senators were sharply divided yesterday over the confirmation of the appointment of four non-executive members of the board of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
They are Muhammad Musa Kafarati (North-East), Collons Chike Chikeluba (South-East), Adaba Anthony Adeiza (North-Central) and Ayuli Jemide (South-South).
Although they were eventually confirmed, senators insisted that the federal character principle, as enshrined in the constitution, must be followed in all appointments.
Senate Minority Whip, Ganiyu Solomon observed that since the South-West was not represented in the list of those nominated for appointments, the remaining slot should be reserved for the zone in the interest of equity and fair play.
Solomon got support from Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, who noted that the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) and the permanent secretary, although were from the South-West, were members of the board due to the positions they held.
He argued that it would be wrong to say that they were representing the South-West on the board since they were not appointed as non-executive members of the board.
But Senator Mohammed Goje reminded him that the AGF and the permanent secretary were members of the board. Goje reiterated that the North-East geo-political zone had always been forgotten in terms of appointment.
He added that Kafarati appointed from the North- East was qualified for the position he was nominated to serve having served meritoriously in sensitive positions in the past.
Senator Smart Adeyemi, however, advised the chamber to amend the CBN Act to accommodate all geo-political zones of the country in future appointments as a way of reflecting the federal character principle.
He said senators struggled to ensure that their geo-political zones were represented in appointments because of favouritism and nepotism which had beclouded appointments in the country.
Adeyemi said it was an open secret that people in positions of authority in the country recruited only persons from their areas.
Rounding off debate on the matter, the Senate president described the debate as ‘healthy’, adding that he allowed senators to speak because they recognized that the day of reckoning would come.
He said what the Senate was doing was to ensure that every zone was represented in appointments.
He added, however, that there would be no end to the debate. The same sentiments also played out in the confirmation of the secretary and members of the EFCC.
Mr. Michael Ebong, Mr. Uwasomba Udochukwu, Mr. Emmanuel Ibitolu, Dr. Ismaila Mohammed Dukku were confirmed as members of the EFCC while Emmanuel Adegboyega Aremo was confirmed as member/secretary of the commission.
Senate also confirmed the nomination of Hajia Fatima Kwaku and Mr. Olumuyiwa Akinboro as members of the Federal Judicial Service commission (JSC).