The Senate once again on Tuesday noted with concern obvious lopsidedness in nomination of people for appointment into Federal Government boards, agencies and parastatals by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The upper legislative chamber therefore cautioned President Buhari and the executive arm to respect and apply the principle of Federal Character in appointing people into public offices.
The caution came as the Senate confirmed the chairman and 11 members of the governing board of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at plenary yesterday.
Confirmed nominees are; Dr. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman as chairman while other members include, Joseph Onyemaechi Mmamel; Ahmad Abubakar Fingilla; Kemi Asiwaju-Okenyodo; Abubakar Muhammed; Femi Okeowo; Sunday Etim Daniel.
Others are; Barr. Agabaidu Chukwuemeka Jideani; Mrs. Nella Andem-Rabana, SAN; Azubuike Nwakwenta; Jamila Isah; and Mrs. Idayat Omolara Hassan.
While presenting the report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Sen. Opeyemi Bamidele categorically stated that the appointments of persons into the NHRC board fell short of the requirement of the Federal Character principle.
He said the Committee observed that “Section 14 (3) of the Constitution requires that the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies, should reflect the Federal Character Principles.
Furthermore, Section 3 (2) and (3) of the National Human Rights (Amendment) Act, provides for the composition of the Council to consist of the Chairman and Members of the Commission who shall represent various segments of the human rights community.
“However, it is noteworthy to state that the composition of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission as presented to the 9th Senate, does not comply with the provisions of the Constitution as it relates to the Federal Character Principles. For the avoidance of doubt, the composition of the Council, as per geopolitical zone, as presented to the Senate, is as follows:
“That it is imperative to state that absolute compliance with the provisions of the Constitution is not a choice but a fundamental obligation imposed on individuals, Government and all its functionaries, as encapsulated in Section 13 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.
The committee stated that human rights issues do not only affect a segment but cut across all parts of the country and as such, “all the geo-political zones must be represented in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution, in the light of emerging human rights abuses in the country”.
Consequently, he said there is need that the Senate “do draw the attention of Mr. President and Commander–In–Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation to the lopsidedness in the composition of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission, which is an infraction against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.
The committee charged the Senate and indeed the National Assembly to ensure compliance with laws as the parliament do not only make law but also ensures that the laws are complied with, through the mechanisms of checks and balances.
“Therefore, it is our duty to draw the attention of the Executive who is saddled with the responsibilities of making nominations for appointments into any position in the country to ensure compliance with the Federal Character Principles in line with the Constitution”, Bamidele said.
Recalled that the Senate at its Plenary Sitting on Wednesday, 24th March, 2021, considered President Muhammadu Buhari’s request, for the confirmation of nominations of the Chairman and Members of the National Human Rights Commission, and referred same to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, for further legislative action.
He said the Committee interviewed the nominees and received explanations regarding their qualifications, experience in human rights issues, suitability, competence and integrity to assume the positions of Chairman and Members of the National Human Rights Commission, respectively.
The Committee, in the course of its interactive sessions with the nominees, was briefed about the suitability and competence of each of the nominees, for confirmation as Chairman and Members of the National Human Rights Commission, respectively.
” In their briefings, the nominees, individually and collectively, demonstrated sufficient knowledge of the law, issues bordering on human rights as well as contemporary issues. They also outlined their vision for the Commission to ensure that its mandate is carried out without interference, as an independent Body.
“That the nominees possess the requisite qualifications, competence and comportment to discharge the duties and functions of the Governing Council of the Commission;
“That there is no petition against the nominations of any of the nominees before the Committee;
“That there are no adverse reports against the nominees, as record checks and other forms of investigations by security agencies, did not reveal any negative trace against them; and
“That the Committee is satisfied about their qualifications, experience, suitability, competence and integrity to assume the positions of Chairman and Members of the National Human Rights Commission, respectively”he said.