AMCON and hypocritical defenders of the law
Barely 24 hours after Major General Mohammadu Buhari appointed Mr. Muhammad Nami, a tax consultant as the Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, replacing Mr. Tunde Fowler, has the President replaced Dr. Muiz Banire with Mr. Edward Adamu as the head of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). Reading through the reactions of Nigerians on social media, the appointments seem not to go well with many Nigerians who raised the fear that the President favours Northerners in his appointments which is inimical to the peaceful co-existence of the country. For instance, they argued that virtually all the leaderships of security agencies in Nigeria are headed by people from the Northern part of the country, showing a clear case of nepotism on the side of the President.
In truth, the President of Nigeria has always fragrantly breached the Federal Character principle enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) when making appointments. Section 14(3) of the Constitution provides that “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 states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”
However, Buhari has not only violated this constitutional mandate, he was also quoted to have said that “this time around, I am going to be quiet in the sense that I will pick people I personally know.” That statement alone is in my view, a testament to his tribalistic stance in making appointments. But I have digressed. These are not the issues for today.
Following the heavy criticisms of the AMCON appointment by many Nigerians, the President’s paid “King’s Horsemen” have gone ahead to defend the appointment of Mr. Muhammad Nami by quoting Section 10 of the AMCON Act 2019 as amended, which provides that there shall be “a part-time chairman who shall be a Deputy Governor in the Central Bank of Nigeria to be nominated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.” I have perused the recently amended AMCON Act and I can confirm that the defenders of the President are partially right in law for their justification of the appointment but very wrong in fact.
First, Mr. Nami is not the only Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. I can confirm that people from other parts of the country hold that same position and are fit and proper. Why were they not appointed? Funny enough, the President in his letter to the Senate did not make any such reference to the 2019 amendment of the AMCON Act. The President said: “In accordance with Section 10(1) of the Asset Management Corporation Of Nigeria (AMCON) Act, 2010, I hereby present Mr. Edward Adamu for confirmation as Chairman of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria” (Emphasis mine).
My little knowledge of law tells me that the AMCON Act, 2010 is not the same as AMCON (Amendment) Act, 2019 or simply AMCON Act, 2010 (2019 as amended). So, the President’s defenders argument becomes faulty because the law the President made reference to in his letter does not tally with that which they are advocating its invocation and their provisions are different altogether. They live in an embarrassingly helpless contradiction and act like the proverbial bowl hotter than the soup.
Second, it is very laughable and hypocritical of the President’s “Napoleon is always right” to justify an obvious nepotism using the instrumentality of law. One cannot be more Catholic than the Pope. This man being justified has never pretended to believe in the rule of law and our constitutional democracy. He is notorious for arbitrariness, disrespect for court orders and gross violations of the constitution. It is now funny to see the defenders of this kind of President talking about law in defense of a chauvinist. They now attempt to use the same law they always disregard as a shield for their paid master’s toxic wrongdoings and use same as a sword against the Nigerian people. Sycophancy taken too far!
Whereas the same President defended for “acting legally”, appointed Dr. Muiz Banire in breach of AMCON Act, Section 10(a) of the AMCON Act, 2010 (before its amendment recently) provided that “the part-time chairman shall be a nominee of the Federal Ministry of Finance in consultation with the minister.” Was Dr. Muiz Banire of the Federal Ministry of Finance? Certainly not, meaning that the appointment was illegal, abinitio. He was nonetheless unlawfully appointed by the President.
To the shock of many, an unqualified Banire was subsequently confirmed by the Senate. The Senate did not just confirm Banire’s illegal appointment by chance; it “followed the adoption of the reports on the nominees by the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions.” How Banire, who was not near to being qualified got into the equation and later got “confirmed” by the Senate should give us all a cause to worry about our institutions and the place of the rule of law in our country.
The above is just one out of many arrogant display of crass lawlessness in the administration of General Buhari. How his media aides now come about using the law to defend his ethnicist tendencies in this AMCON appointment shows a contemptuous act of dissimulation. Nigerians, who are patiently watching are too wise to be played upon. His defenders should give such a defense to other people of greater gullibility. Not Nigerians. Or is hypocrisy a Nigerian?
Festus Ogun is a human rights activist, constitutional law enthusiast and convener of Legal Minds for Good Governance Initiative.