Aug 18, 2011

The Federal Character Principle

Coming from a complex ethnic and cultural background, Nigeria at independence was faced with a huge challenge of getting the hundreds of tribes to trust themselves, at least to a degree where the progress of the nation will not be held back. Overcoming the challenge was difficult leading to a situation where members of the spectrum of tribes were more or less interested in helping just their tribes or regions to the resources of the country. The trend was setting a tone for disaffection particularly among minority tribes. It was feared that such a trend if not checked will bring about disunity and eventual collapse of the federation. Some wise men started thinking of a way of avoiding the possibility of a bitter outcome for the nation.

During the 1978 Constitutional Conference some members suggested the constitution of a body that will be charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all regions and tribes across the country were not marginalized as far as benefitting from what the country had to offer to its citizens. The idea did not however saw the light of day. During 1994 constitutional conference convened by the military junta of General Sani Abacha however, the issue resurfaced and was given the desired attention, this time leading to the creation of Federal Character Commission in 1996.

The Federal Character Commission has its head office in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. It is made up of thirty seven federal commissioners representing the thirty six states and the FCT. Each of these commissioners is appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In additional to the head office, the Federal Character Commission has branch offices in each of the thirty six regions and Abuja. This administrative structure is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the Federal Character Principle which is ensuring that all citizens of the federation have equal opportunities to the resources the nation has to offer regardless of tribe, region, color or creed.

The Federal Character Principle demands that whenever there are job vacancies in the Federal Civil Service, each of the thirty six states of the federation is entitled to 2.5% of the available vacancies while the FCT is entitled to 1%. The federal character principle also demands that such vacancies must be published in a national daily newspaper six weeks before the recruitment exercise is conducted. Furthermore, all applicants must be short-listed regardless of whether they are qualified or not. From the list, the qualified candidates are then chosen and given the opportunity to take part in the interview.

Situations do arise where certain states lack qualified persons for the vacancies available to their states. When that happens, the opportunity is thrown open to other candidates from the geo-political region of that state.

Every state of the federation is entitled to 75% of the job opportunities for junior officers who fall within Grade Levels 01-07 I in a federal organization located within that state. The remaining 25% is set aside for other citizens within the same geo-political region.

The staff of the regional offices are shouldered with the responsibility of ensuring that the federal departments and agencies within the region comply with the federal character principle. To achieve this, they regularly visit such offices to conduct staff audits to ensure compliance. When recruitment exercises are being conducted, a staff of the commission is also part of the panel conducting the interview to ensure compliance with the demands of his organization.

The Federal Character Principle is not exclusive to federal departments alone but also state and local government offices as well and the staff of the Federal Character Commission are also backed by law to go to such offices to carry out staff audits to ensure that the employment rights of every local government within the state or ward within a local government are not violated.

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