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Leadership crisis threatens Federal Character Commission

By Niyi Bello, Abuja Bureau Chief
14 August 2018   |   2:55 am
A leadership crisis might be brewing in the Federal Character Commission (FCC) following an alleged attempt by its immediate past boss to seek tenure elongation through the back door.

Dr. Shettima Bukar Abba

• Acting chairman absolves self of blame
A leadership crisis might be brewing in the Federal Character Commission (FCC) following an alleged attempt by its immediate past boss to seek tenure elongation through the back door.

The helmsman’s official term ended last month.The FCC, one of 14 independent executive bodies empowered by Section 153 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, is tasked with ensuring unbiased geographical spread of government offices among the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).Akin to its mandate, offices of the commission are also to be shared with equal representation of all the states and geo-political zones.

The body consists of 37 commissioners representing all the states and Abuja, while the President, through the approval and confirmation of the Senate in accordance with Section 2(2) of the Commission’s Establishment Act, appoints a chairman for a five-year tenure.Since the establishment of the commission in 1995, however, the position of the executive chairman has always gone to the northern part of the country, while the south received the office of the secretary, who is also appointed by the President.

When there is a vacancy in the office of the chairman, pending the President’s appointment of a substantive helmsman, the commission appoints the most senior serving representative in an acting capacity, until the termination of his tenure as commissioner.

But since last year, not only have two persons from the north occupied the two topmost positions; they were also from the same geo-political zone.The former acting chairman, Dr. Shettima Bukar Abba, who is from Borno State took the mantle of leadership January 2016. Mohammed Bello Tukur from Taraba was appointed substantive secretary in 2017. The aberration, contrary to the commission’s subsidiary legislation, should have been corrected at the expiration of Shettima’s tenure last month.

Section 4 of the subsidiary legislation states: “Where the number of positions available cannot go round the states of the federation or the Federal Capital, the distribution shall be on zonal basis. But in the case where two positions are available, the positions shall be shared between the northern and southern zones.”

Sources, however, told The Guardian that expectations were dashed as Shettima allegedly refused to let go of the office and might have been making clandestine moves to dig his heels in. He has also been accused of failing to do a proper handing over. This runs foul of a directive by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) in December last year (Ref. No.SGF.50/S.11/C.2/268) that all heads of government agencies, at the expiration of their tenures, hand over to the most senior persons in their establishments.

Shettima’s alleged lobbying is said to be facing outright rejection and condemnation, especially at the office of the SGF, which does not want to run foul of extant laws. But there are fears another level of authority may give a nod, prompting serving commissioners to consider legal action.

Sources within the commission blamed Shettima’s emergence in 2015 on the “rampant impunity of the Babachir Lawal’s era as SGF.” They said the former helmsman was the most junior of the commissioners, having been appointed two years earlier, but placed above his seniors in blatant disregard of rules and regulations.

But Shettima insisted he has already left the commission, following the expiration of his tenure, and has carried out a proper handover to the secretary.Asked why he didn’t hand over to the most senior commissioner, in compliance with the SGF’s circular, he said there were three commissioners with the same rank and he didn’t know who was the most senior.

“The commissioners from Zamfara, Osun and Ondo are the most senior ones. I had to hand over to the secretary because the three of them were appointed the same date. This was to avoid confusion.”Asked if he was lobbying for a fresh tenure, Shettima, surprised, answered: “I have every right to aspire for another term. I have only spent five years as commissioner, out of which two and a half were spent as acting chairman. The law states that one can go for two terms.

“I don’t know why you are asking these questions. I have a right. And even at that, I have left the office on the last day of my tenure and handed over.”When the provision of Section 4 of the commission’s subsidiary legislation, which split the two top positions between the north and the south was pointed to him, however, he did not give a definite answer, even after he was reminded that the presidency had approved the position of the secretary for the north.