NISER, don task govt on fostering integration among ethnic nationalities
DirectorR-General of the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Prof. Antonia Taiye Simbine, has said the Federal Government could only address challenge of ethnic inequality through implementation of programmes, policies and projects geared towards fostering integration among the nationalities.
Speaking at the inaugural NISER Research Seminar Series (NRSS) for year 2023, entitled: ‘Ethnic Inequality, The Federal Character Principle and Reform of Nigeria’s Presidential Federalism’ in Ibadan, Oyo State, Simbine contended that due to perceived lopsidedness in the sharing of national resources (economic and political), Nigerians are clearly more divided now, thus, imposing on the current administration the huge task of managing “our diversity.”
She expressed concern that this disunity is rearing its ugly head less than a month to the general elections. Simbine noted: “This seminar is coming barely a month before the 2023 general elections slated to start on February 25.”
The election is coming at a time when the extent of centrifugal forces at play in the federation has reached an alarming level, which has never been matched since independence in 1960.
“For the nation to overcome the increasing agitations for self-determination among some ethnic nationalities, there is critical need on the part of government to implement policies and programmes that can foster integration of the different ethno-cultural groups for national development.
“Since independence in 1960, issues and strategies of national integration have expectedly constituted national discourses on how to handle the country’s heterogeneous and highly culturally diverse society.
“This is not surprising, given that government at the federal level has always faced the challenge of welding disparate entities into one indivisible unit. Nonetheless, despite the constitutional principle of unity in diversity, ethnic inequality remains a major challenge in modern Nigeria.”
She continued: “The Federal Character Principle (FCP), established in the 1979 Constitution (and reaffirmed in the 1999 Constitution), can be viewed as a direct approach to redressing these horizontal inequalities between different groups in Nigerian society, while avoiding concentration in a few ethnic hands or geographical areas.
“To accomplish these goals, the Federal Character Commission (FCC) has been tasked since 1996 with monitoring and enforcing the constitutional principle of federal character in government employment and public expenditure.
“Given the never-ending squabbles and complaints about the FCP’s implementation, it appears that the FCC has been hampered by some constraints, which affect its performance.
“The principle, like many other policies in the multinational federation, has drawbacks: it favours ethnic majorities by using states rather than ethnic groupings as the units to be represented because ethnic minorities have more states than ethnic majorities; and the policy errands some ethnic groups over others, which is inconsistent with the policy’s stated goal of national unity.”
In his lecture, key note speaker, Prof. Rotimi Suberu, from Bennington College, United States, stated: “Ethnic conflict resolution in Nigeria has not significantly reduced inter-group socioeconomic inequality or prevented intense ethno-political squabbles.”