FCT: Failure to appoint indigene as Minister violates constitutional right of citizens, By O G Chukkol

Posted by News Express | 19 August 2018 | 1,184 times

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•O G Chukkol

As a necessary prelude, section 147(i)&(iii) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic (as amended) is to the effect that there shall be offices of ministers and the ministers shall be appointed based on federal character principle entrenched in section 14(iii) of the Constitution. That means each state must have a representative as a minister. Unfortunately, from 1999 till date, no president has ever considered appointing an FCT indigene as a minister.  

 

Now, let us bring the matter within a narrow compass by asking and answering the following questions:

(1) Is FCT, Abuja a state?

(2) If FCT, Abuja should be regarded as a state, are they entitled to the benefits of section 14(iii) of the Constitution, since the section is generally not justiciable?

On the first poser, the answer is in section 299 of the constitution. The section provides as follows:

“The provisions of this Constitution shall apply to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, as if it were one of the states of the federation.”

The Court of Appeal in Okoyode v FCDA (2005) 27 WRN 97 Page 105 gave effect to the above provisions in the following words:

“By virtue of section 299 of the Constitution of the Federation, the Federal Capital Territory is in law a state. In other words, the Federal Capital Territory should be treated as one of the states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Having established that FCT, Abuja, is to be regarded as a state in constitutional interpretation, let us attempt finding solution to the second poser.

Generally speaking, section 14(iii) of the Constitution, just like other provisions under Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution, is not justiciable by reason of sections 6(6)(c) thereof, and the cases of Archbishop Olubunmi Okogie v Lagos State (1981) 2 NCLR 337 at 350 and AG Ondo v AG Federation (2002) 27 WRN 1 at 153.

That means, no one can be heard in court to complain that the section was breached. However, this is merely a general position. One of the exceptional circumstances where the section can be enforced by a court is when the section is made justiciable by any other provision(s) of the Constitution. That is why on the subject matter, section 147(iii) becomes very important. The section provides that appointment of ministers shall be in accordance with section 14(iii) of the Constitution (Federal Character principle). The implication is that the section has made section 14(iii) justiciable.

For the avoidance of doubt, it was recently pronounced in Panya v President, FRN & ors (2018) LPELR-44573(CA) thus:

“...because of the importance of the reflection of federal character in the appointment of ministers by the president, section 14(iii) was incorporated into the provisions for mandatory compliance. It is, therefore, absolutely important to note that the inclusion of S14(iii) for its compliance by the president in section 147(iii) now makes section 14(iii) in relation to ministerial appointment justiciable. The law is settled that a specific provision prevails over and above a general provision in an enactment. See Ibori v Ogboru (2004) 15 NWLR (Pt.895) 154 at 194-195; Kraus Thompson Organization v National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) (2004) 17 NWLR (Pt. 901) 44 at 59, 65."

The point is this: By the combined effect of the provisions of sections 299, 147(i)& (iii) and 14(iii) of the Constitution, it is obligatory or mandatory for the President of Nigeria to appoint, at least, one minister from the indigenes of FCT, Abuja, as a minister to represent them in the Federal Executive Council of the Federation. Failure to appoint any minister from among the indigenes of FCT, Abuja, is a flagrant violation of the constitutional right guaranteed by section 147(iii) and its proviso thereto, section 299 and section 14(iii) of the 1999 Constitution. To borrow from the learned justices of the Court of Appeal, the above provisions are meant to create a happy egalitarian citizenry in this country as envisaged by the preamble to the Constitution. The provisions are aimed at ensuring equal and fair participation of all states in the recognition of the diversity of the people of this country, and the need to forge national unity and promote a sense of belonging among all the peoples in the federation.

I humbly urge President Muhammadu Buhari not to continue on the path of former presidents. He should uphold the constitutional right of the indigenes of FCT by appointing one of them as a minister.

But wait a minute! Who is recognised by law as an indigene of FCT, Abuja? This should be a topic for another day. However, a curious reader can quickly check Part II of the Federal Character Commission Act, Cap F7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 shall find the answer.

•Chukkol, a student of law, ABU, Zaria, writes via oliverchukkol@gmail.com


Source: News Express

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