When President Muhammadu Buhari announced his administration’s decision to recruit 6,000 additional personnel into the Nigerian Police Force, he directed that the exercise should be conducted on the basis of the number of local governments in the country. In effect, an average of seven persons would be taken from each of the 774 local government areas.
It was a strange directive from the president, a move that is not in tandem with the concept of federalism which the 1999 constitution encapsulates. The constitution has been the basis for the country’s administrative and political structure under which the Senate is made up three members from each of the 36 states while the House of Representatives is drawn from a flexible allocation of seats based on population.
In imposing the local governments as the basis for the recruitment, President Buhari was obviously inspired by the skewed nature of the distribution of the councils which heavily favours the northern part of the country. Kano State has 44 councils more than twice that of Lagos with just 20. The former capital has a significantly higher population than Kano. Under Buhari’s recipe, however, Kano will have 308 of its citizens recruited while Lagos is having only 140. All the northern states have in excess of 20 local governments each while most of the states in the south have less than 20 councils each. Bayelsa State, the smallest with just eight councils, has been allocated 56 slots from the 6,000 available, Abia is getting 117 placements from its 17 local governments while Delta which has 25 councils should get about 190 slots.
At the end of the recruitment exercise, more than 65 percent of the new recruits will come from the northern states.
President Buhari’s unilateral intervention on the parameters for recruiting the new Police personnel is against the intent and spirit of Nigeria’s federal constitution; it is against the spirit of fair play and justice. Plainly, it is unconstitutional.
Section 2 (2) of the 1999 CFRN (as amended) provides that “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of states and a Federal Capital Territory.” Ours is a written constitution which is also rigid and sovereign; and the extant provisions of this sovereign constitution unequivocally states that Nigeria is a federation of states and the Federal Capital Territory. By unilaterally deciding that recruitment should be done based on local governments, President Buhari is trying to redefine federalism. He is dubiously adopting a mere acknowledgement of the existence of 774 local governments by the constitution when in the first schedule, part one all the names of the councils were mentioned, as his new definition of the federating units.
By explicitly listing the 36 states, the constitution clearly affirms they, alongside the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, constitute the federating units of the Nigerian federation, and not the local government areas. The mentions made of local government areas’ number and their names serve just as their mere recognition as the component parts of the respective federating units (states) and nothing more pretentious.
Shortly after the President took office in May 2015, series of secret recruitments into many agencies and parastatals of the federal government were conducted without respect for federal character and fairness as required by law. Those exercises attracted criticisms from Nigerians, especially given the fact that they were not preceded by interviews as well-placed people merely forwarded the names of their wards and favoured candidates.
The tragedy of President Buhari’s decision is that it is coming at a time the country needed its leadership to stem the growing discontent, distrust and disunity in the polity. Rather, the president is overtly fanning the embers of centrifugal forces trying to scuttle the search for a more perfect union.
We reject the adoption of local governments as basis for recruitment in any federal institution. It is illegal, unconstitutional and retrogressive. President Buhari should reverse his decision on the recruitment of 6,000 police personnel and adopt the state option which comes closest to being fair.