Federal Character: Senate to probe Buhari’s appointments

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President of the Senate Dr Bukola Saraki and Deputy Ike Ekweremadu

The Senate on Thursday, directed its committee on Federal Character to probe all appointments of President Muhammadu Buhari, to establish alleged lopsidedness or otherwise.

The decision of the Senate followed a point or Order raised by the Deputy President of the Senate Ike Ekweremadu, alleging that Buhari’s appointments were focused more on a particular region of Nigeria.

Ekweremadu was reacting to a letter from President Buhari seeking Senate’s confirmation of the appointment of a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Tunde Lemo, as Chairman, Federal Emergency Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) as well as six others.

After the President of the Senate read the letter, Ekweremadu immediately raised a point of Order to challenge the appointments, saying that most of the appointments of the current administration were not in line with the Federal Character Principle.

According to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the federal character principle stipulates: “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”.

Sen. Chukwuka Utazi who supported Ekweremadu’s point of order, argued that the appointments of the current administration had been so lopsided and favouring a particular region of the country

Also relying on a point of order, the Leader of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, countered the DSP’s allegation saying that he should look at all other appointments before jumping into such conclusions.

He said that even where appointments in a particular agency may seem to favour a particular region, he urged the DSP to look at all other appointments in other agencies before alleging that the Federal Character Principle was being violated.

In his reaction, the President of the Senate Dr Bukola Saraki, said that the observations could only be considered as the personal opinion of those raising them.

He argued that there was no clear document from which the senators could draw such conclusions and therefore suggested that the committee on Federal Character be mandated to carry out a comprehensive inquest on the appointments of President Buhari.

Saraki said that when the committee submits its report, then the lawmakers would have a basis to make allegations if it is established that there was need to.

Saraki’s intervention however did not douse the lawmakers’ agitation as the upper legislative chamber was thrown into a rowdy session with senators arguing on the top of their voices for, and against Ekweremadu’s arguments.

As the senate moved to begin the confirmation of the appointment of chairman and commissioners of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa also relying on a point of order, called on the Senate to suspend the consideration.

He argued that since the senate had agreed to investigate all the appointments of the current administration, the confirmation should be stepped down until the committee on federal character submits its report.

However, the President of the Senate over-ruled him saying that the screening should continue pending when the Committee on Federal Character submits its report.

Saraki insisted that the Thursday’s condideration of the Senate was not the final confirmation of the nominees, stressing that before they are confirmed, the senate would already have received the report of the Characters’ committee.

The second intervention of Saraki still did not put paid to the rowdy session or the agitation as Sen. Utazi, also relying on a point of order, went on to argue that if the appointment of the Board of FERMA was kept until the Character’s commission report is presented, it would only be fair that all screenings and considerations be suspended as well until the report is presented.

Again Saraki intervened saying: “We are all just speculating, we are on the same page. Let us first get a document from Federal Character then we can take action, if the Federal Character Reports suggests that the DSP is right, then we suspend the consideration.

Still fuelling the argument, another Senator, Obinna Ogba also stood on a point of Order to argue on the issue of the appointment. It was another round of rowdiness as Ogba’s alleged that his state, Ebonyi state was being shortchanged in appointments.

The senate remained in a rowdy session as Ogba spoke on the top of his voice, attempting to suppress the voices of many other senator who were either supporting or rejecting his argument.

In a final intervention, Saraki upheld that the screening of the Civil Service Commission’s appointees be continued and directed the Committee on Federal Character to present its report in one week.

Coincidentally, both Sen. Tijjani Kaura, Chairman of the Federal Character Committee and the Vice Chairman were not present at the plenary.

Saraki therefore mandated other members of the committee who were present to pass the directive to the chairman and the vice chairman and ensure that they conclude their investigation and report back to the Senate at plenary on Tuesday.