How Tinubu’s Appointments raised dust over federal character, others

Since assumption of office on May 29th, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has made several appointments, which have received applauds and criticism.

Apart from the fact that vested interests groups and individuals have continued to seek patronage from the seat of power, regional blocs, as is always the case, are up in arms trying to outdo one another in seeking appointments for their zones.

Maybe it is because of this that the writers of the constitution deemed it necessary to impute federal character into the polity of the country.

The federal character principle as enshrined in the constitution envisages 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 to promote national unity at all times.

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It is expected to also ensure that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies.

However, opinions still remain divided with the preponderance of it, maintaining that appointments made so far or at least the “major” ones favor the South West zone, where the president hails from.

Many of those who believe that the present administration has not been fair, said President Tinubu is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, who was on several occasions accused of allegedly giving plum appointments to his kinsmen.

Very early in days of the present administration even the ministerial appointments that were supposed to be based on states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) raised so much controversy over whether it followed the principles of federal character.

During the screening of the ministers in the Senate, Senators representing the South-east region of the country urged President Tinubu to appoint more nominees from their geopolitical zone to balance political representation across the country.

They argued that their region had been short changed in the scheme of things, claiming they were handed the short end of the stick in the ministerial appointments.  In the list of ministerial nominees sent to the Senate by the president, 10 ministers were nominated from the North-west, eight from the North-east, eight from the North-central, nine from the South-west, eight from the South-south and five from the South-east.

Consequently, lawmakers in the upper chamber from the South-east expressed dissatisfaction with the ratio for their region and called on President Tinubu to review the nominations to reflect what they called equity, balance and justice.

Aside the ministerial appointments, complaints trailed some others as well. President Tinubu was accused of having cornered juicy appointments for his zone and what some others referred to “his Lagos boys”.

These include; the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Yemi Cardoso, the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, the Chairman, FIRS; Zacch Adedeji.

Others are Taiwo Oyedele, chairman, Tax Reforms Committee; Tope Fasua, Special Adviser on Economic Affairs, and Bisoye Coker-Odusote, acting director general of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

The president also appointed Kayode Egbetokun, as the Inspector General of Police. It would be recalled that he had earlier named Adeniyi Adewale, his kinsman as the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service. There is also the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani; Minister of Interior, Bunmi Tunji-Ojo, Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu; Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dele Alake; Minister of Marine & Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola.

There were also some other appointments which raised dust;

Ministerial nominee accused of commencing primary school at the age of 3

The nomination of Professor Joseph Utsev, now Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, was an issue of contention at the Red chamber.

During his screening at the Senate, a senator sited what he thought was a discrepancy in his certificate.

The professor’s certificate stated that he was born in 1980 and  he finished secondary school in 1989.

The senator pointed out that according to his Curriculum Vitae, he was born in 1980 and started his primary education three years after, in 1984, and finished secondary school in 1989.

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, then called upon the Benue lawmaker, Senator Abba Moro, to speak up on the matter. 

Moro, in the nominee’s defence, said it was a typographical error, stating that the nominee was very notable.

“The discrepancy probably came from a typographical error. Let us give him the benefit of the doubt. He has sufficiently discharged himself and he should be asked to take a bow and go.” Moro said.  And so, the nominee was saved.

 

24 — year-old FERMA board chair

Many Nigerians were surprised when 24-year-old Imam Ibrahim Kashim was appointed as Board Chairman of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).

Imam, a first-class graduate of Mechanical Engineering from Brighton University, United Kingdom, completed the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in August 2022.

While some Nigerians hailed the president for youth inclusion in his administration, others criticised the appointment on the grounds that the young man lacked the requisite experience to handle such task, especially just coming out of school. 

They blamed the president for putting political considerations ahead of experience in the appointment and asked that the appointment be rescinded. 

Those who criticised the appointment argued that Imam’s lack of experience would make it difficult for him to lead FERMA, effectively pointing out that the appointment could set a dangerous precedent. The presidency later bowed to pressure and revoked the appointment. 

 

NIPOST CEO

Just like the above, the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer/Post Master General of Nigerian Postal 

Service (NIPOST), Tola Odeyemi, was greeted with uproar, especially by the workers of the organisation. 

In fact the aggrieved workers of the Nigerian Postal Service shut down the head office of the service in Abuja, in protest against Odeyemi’s appointment.

The President of the National Union of Postal and Telecommunication Employees, Mr Nehemiah Buba, then disclosed that the appointment was against the interest of the workers.

“Under Adeyemi Adepoju, NIPOST was able to clear the debt it owed and that is the reason why we are having smooth process in our service.

“We have seen a situation to crumble this organisation for the past three years, and today we are saying no to it. Today, we are requesting that the post master general should be allowed to continue the good work he has started,” Buba said. 

 

Son in-law gets appointment 

One of the appointments that also generated controversy since the present administration took over was the appointment of Oyetunde Oladimeji Ojo, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s son-in-law as the chief executive officer (CEO) of the federal housing Authority (FHA).

Oyetunde Oladimeji Ojo, a former member of the House of Representatives, is said to be married to Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, the president’s daughter.

But the presidency reacted, saying Ojo had over a decade of work experience in the housing and hospitality industries, a development that warranted his appointment.  However, President Tinubu’s critics queried the appointment.

A civil rights group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said the decision by Tinubu to appoint his son-in-law as the head of FHA, was worrisome. 

They said the appointment and others like it breached section 14(3) of the federal character principle. The group accused the president of giving the most strategic appointments in the defence, finance and oil sectors to his kinsmen, instead of spreading those appointments that touch on the national economy. 

 

A corps member makes list of ministers

The appointment of Mrs Hannatu Musawa as Minister of Arts and Culture, while she was still undergoing the one-year national youth service programme also raised dust.

The management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) through its Director, Press and Public Relations, Eddy Megwa, had confirmed that Musawa was still a serving corps member when she was appointed as minister. 

Reports said Musawa was originally mobilised in 2001, for the youth service and deployed to Ebonyi State, where she had completed her orientation programme, but later absconded. 

Some Nigerians blamed the National Assembly, especially the Senate for screening and confirming her even when she was still a corps member. 

But some lawyers argued in her favour that she had not breeched any law.

 

Appointment of Olukoyede as EFCC chairman 

Ola Olukoyede, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was appointed to replace the agency’s former boss, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who was removed from office over what government said was to “allow for proper investigation into his conduct while in office”.

However, Olukoyede’s appointment generated controversy, especially among legal practitioners, who were divided on whether he met the requirements for the position as stipulated by the EFCC Act or not. 

The EFCC Act provides that the EFCC chairman must be a serving or retired member of any security or law enforcement agency, have 15 years’ experience and must not be below the rank of assistant commissioner of police or its equivalent.

Daniel Bwala, an Abuja based lawyer had described the appointment as “unlawful and illegal,” noting that “it runs foul of the provisions of Section 2 of the EFCC Act.

“There is a base line. The base line is that the person must come from security or law enforcement agency of the government, the reference is the government not private sector. The security is one that is covered by the National Security Agency Act which comprises DIA, NIA and SSS. Law enforcement compromises the EFCC, the police, the NSCDC and the rest. He never investigated a single case because he did not come as an operative.

“Attending seminal courses as a private legal practitioner can’t equate 15 years cognate experience contemplated by Section 2 of the Act. He only has a stint as Chief of Staff to Magu, the former acting EFCC Chairman and later became a secretary of the commission, all of which lasted less than six years,” Bwala said.

Apart from the individual appointments, during the screening of the ministers in the Senate, senators representing the South-east region of the country urged President Tinubu to appoint more nominees from their geopolitical zone to balance political representation across the country. 

They argued that their region had been short changed in the scheme of things, claiming they had been handed the short end of the stick in the ministerial appointments.

In the list of ministerial nominees sent to the Senate by President Tinubu, 10 ministers were nominated from the North West, eight  from the North East, eight from the North-central, nine from the South-west, eight from the South-south and five nominees from the South-east. 

While other appointments were spread across the country, many still believe that other sections of the country were not as favoured as the South-west geopolitical zone.

Among the vocal ones were the North-central and the South-east geopolitical zones.

In a statement recently, the National Coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) Emmanuel Onwubiko, accused President Tinubu of partiality, saying that most of the “key appointments” in his cabinet were apportioned to individuals from his ethnic group.

The group said the president’s appointments showed that he had “special consideration” for people from his region, especially those with links to Lagos State.

The Executive Director of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Ishaq Akintola, introduced a new dimension to the argument, noting that the appointments so far are lopsided and favoured mainly “Yorubas and Christians.”

He advised the president to ensure balance in other coming appointments.

“We are shocked to our marrow that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been appointing Christians and Yorubas mainly to key positions since the inception of this administration at the expense of Muslims. For instance, five out of eight security chiefs appointed earlier are Christians. Ministerial posts have not been different,” he said.

An Abuja-based human rights lawyer, Pelumi Olajengbesi, also urged President Tinubu to allow the federal character principle guide his appointments.

Olajengbesi, in a statement reiterated that Nigeria is a heterogeneous and multi-religious country, hence all government appointments should fairly reflect the religious, ethnic, linguistic, and geographic diversity of the country.

He cautioned that “clannish appointments are dangerous for Nigeria’s embryonic democracy,” warning that the president should not repeat the mistakes of his immediate-past predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari.

He had said, “Keen observers of the new administration cannot deny the trend in the appointments of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The president, during his campaigns promised a government of national unity, but the dominating feature of Yoruba men and women in the appointments of the president is worrisome and detrimental to the fragile unity of Nigeria.

“The unfolding ‘It is our turn’ mindset is self-defeating. President Tinubu should not repeat the mistake of his predecessor who appointed his kinsmen into key government offices. The new president should be guided by the federal character principle, as it cannot be separated from true federalism.

“Moreover, Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution is clear on the need for federal character in order to promote national unity, foster national loyalty and give every citizen of Nigeria, a sense of belonging to the nation.”

 

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