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Where is the report on House probe of Federal Character Commission?

Last week, the Daily Trust ran an editorial on the dire unemployment situation in the country calling on the federal government to urgently address the…

Last week, the Daily Trust ran an editorial on the dire unemployment situation in the country calling on the federal government to urgently address the situation before it is too late. The editorial was anchored on a report by Bloomberg published in March 2021 which showed that at 33 per cent, the unemployment rate in Nigeria was the second highest in the world.

The report was disturbing enough that on the floor of the House of Representatives, a member, Francis Waive (APC, Delta), raised the issue which was extensively discussed. In the course of the debates, it came to light that indeed there was employment going on in some agencies of government, but these were not substantial enough to make the desired impact. What was more disturbing as the House found was that these jobs were actually being traded for huge sums of money by some of the officials of the agencies of government responsible for ensuring that these available jobs were distributed in a fair manner in order to balance up and reflect the diversity in the country as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Last July, in keeping with its oversight functions over such matters, the House of Representatives instituted a probe over agencies of the federal government responsible for employment and making sure that the constitutionally required principle of federal character was reflected.

In the course of the keenly followed proceedings, one federal agency, revelations on the out-of-character happenings at the Federal Character Commission (FCC) were mind-boggling. From the testimonies of some of the people involved, Nigerians got to know that the FCC was run like a bazaar where jobs and employment openings at the agencies of the federal government were either sold to the highest bidder or preferentially given to children and wards of commissioners of the commission.

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This unwholesome extortionate practice is insensitive and inhuman. How can a young lad from a poor background whose parents laboured to send him to school from primary to tertiary level at great financial cost and who having graduated despite all odds, be made to part with millions of naira before he can be employed? How can people who are entrusted by the provisions of the constitution to ensure fairness and balance on matters of employment in federal agencies now turn around to work against this very principle?

Although the FCC is not an employment agency, it was however established by an Act of the National Assembly No. 34 of 1996 to implement and enforce the principle of fairness and equity in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructure among the federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. At the probe in the course of carrying out its oversight of federal agencies to determine whether they are in compliance with these provisions, jobs and employment opportunities are usually given to the FCC visiting team on a “wink-and-nod basis’’. But rather than make these jobs available to deserving applicants, the FCC officials, it was alleged, sold these commercially. All these came up at the House hearing.

At the probe of the agency by the House from the revelations that came up, the chairman of the commission, Hajiya Muheebah Dankaka, was on the spot for her micro-management of affairs of the FCC. She was not only accused by some of her staff of running the place like a ‘’sole administrator’’, but there were strong allegations made about her being in the thick of the job racketeering going on. Her former protocol officer, Kolo Haruna, who was the ‘’bag man’’ in the shenanigans going on, revealed the scandalous details, to the House, of how he used to collect amounts of money from those paying for the jobs on behalf of the Chairman and lodge it in his account. And to ensure that the money was not traceable to his principal, he usually renders the money to her in cash.

Having heard all these nauseating revelations at the House probe, Nigerians from all walks of life have become agitated and expectant that drastic consequences will follow from the House of Representatives to serve as a deterrent to other agencies of government engaged in such practices. Nigerians expect nothing less.

But so far since the conclusion of the probe, nothing has been heard from the House on these scandalous happenings at the FCC. This has led to feelings of disappointment among Nigerians who are left to wonder what the probe was for. Was it just to for razzmatazz in order to fulfil all righteousness or was it to really do Justice and uphold the constitution?

In the course of doing this article, I got to know that returning from the probe the chairman had even become unrepentant and had even tightened the screws in the commission. She is heard by staff as saying that nothing will come from the probe as it was an exercise in futility which will die down eventually.  Some of the staff I interviewed, who pleaded anonymity, told me that there is a witch hunt going on and morale is very low in the commission as a result. Some of the commissioners I reached out to, declined comments and those that did wanted their names kept out for fear of reprisals.

In view of these happenings, the House of Representatives has a responsibility in keeping with its constitutional mandate to do the needful. Having done the first part of the job which is to investigate the goings on at the FCC, and having heard from relevant actors within the commission on what is going on there, Nigerians are waiting to see whether the House will go the whole hog or not. And for that matter, the House should also come out with its report and recommendations on findings from its various probes on other agencies of government.

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