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What is Federal Character Principle in Nigeria?

The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies.

             Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: section 14 subsection (3)

What is Federal Character?

The “federal character” principle, which has been enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution since 1979, seeks to ensure that appointments to public service institutions fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and geographic diversity of the country. Application of the principle in the federal civil service and the military has amounted to a confused balancing of the merit principle and the quota system, based essentially on states of origin. This has had adverse consequences for both institutions in terms of discipline, morale, and overall effectiveness and efficiency. Faithful implementation of universal primary education and imaginative rehabilitation of secondary and tertiary education are required to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens to compete for civil service positions on the basis of merit. With regard to the military, only rapid implementation of the constitutional provision on compulsory military training and a definitive end to military rule can help to reduce the salience of the “federal character” principle.

Origin of Federal Character

The phrase Federal Character was first used by the late General Murtala Ramat Muhammed in his address to the opening session of the Constitution Drafting Committee on Saturday the 18th of October 1975. Federal character of Nigeria, according to the CDC’s report of 1977, refers to the distinctive desire of the peoples of Nigeria to promote national unity, foster national loyalty and give every citizen of Nigeria a sense of belonging to the nation notwithstanding the diversities of ethnic origin, culture, language or religion which may exist and which it is their desire to nourish, harness to the enrichment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The executive body responsible for implementing and enforcing the Federal Character Principle in Nigeria is the Federal Character Commission (FCC)

Federal Character Commission (FCC)

The Federal Character Commission (FCC) is a Federal Executive body established by Act No 34 of 1996 to implement and enforce the Federal Character Principle of fairness and equity in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructures among the various federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.The provisions of the 1999 Constitution in Sections 14 and 153 consolidated the establishment of the FCC for operation in a democratic system of Government.

One of the Federal Character Commission duty is to work out an equitable formula, subject to the approval of the President, for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the civil and public service of the Federation and of the State, the armed forces, the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies, bodies corporate owned by the federal or a State Government and Extra-Ministerial Departments and parastatals of the Federation and States.

 

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