Civil society groups in Nigeria have called for an investigation after the State Security Service, SSS, brazenly violated the federal character principle in its latest recruitment of cadet officers.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the domestic secret service, SSS, conducted a shockingly lopsided employment with wide disparity in the number of slots allocated to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
While the agency commissioned 479 cadet officers, Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Director-General of the SSS, Lawal Daura, alone had 51 slots, more than the total of slots for states in the South-south (42) or South-east (44).
The presidency claimed in an unsigned statement that the skewed allotments were to correct observed lopsidedness in the staff structure of the organization.
Several civic groups have condemned the recruitment procedure by the SSS, and have called for action.
Armsfree Ajanaku, media and civic engagement manager, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education CHRICED, called on the government to look at the lopsided recruitment exercise carried out by SSS and other uneven recruitment exercises across the country to ensure that justice is done.
“For us at the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, the recruitment scandal at the DSS reflects the impunity that continues to characterize government business, notwithstanding the change mantra of the president.
“Developments like these give ammunition to those who whip up sentiments aimed at dividing Nigerians. It appears to us that there exist multiple centres of authority within government such that agencies can afford to act as they please without recourse to anti-corruption values the president is attempting to get Nigerians to accept.
“This kind of lopsidedness and cronyism will kill confidence of citizens and erode the modest gains of the anti-corruption fight,” Mr. Ajanaku added.
In his reaction, Lanre Suraj of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC, said the matter should be taken up at the highest level.
“We will meet the Federal Character Commission, things don’t just change, the character of people who occupy office never changes. We have to be extremely vigilant and ensure that we do not allow public office holders to get away with this,” Mr. Suraj stated.
“People are not thinking about the country. It is actually a matter we are going to take up with the President, Federal Character Commission and also the National Assembly.
“We are going to demand investigation and if we do not get satisfactory response or action from the responsible authorities, Federal Character Commission and also the presidency, we will go to court because it’s a constitutional breach,” he added.
Kola Banwo, programme officer, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, also said the matter should be investigated with urgency, for three reasons.
“The first is, issue of federal character which is a constitutional thing.
“If we are fighting corruption and talking about change, we must ensure that people who undermine the Constitution should not get away with it because you can’t fight corruption when impunity surrounds you”, he stated.
“The second is related to issues of perception the government appointment has been lopsided. This country has been treated unfairly in terms of appointment.
“With the data I saw, it shows that certain parts of the country have three times what some other people have. It brings suspicion, if nothing is done about it. It is difficult to believe that the president is aware of it and if he did not do anything about it, it will undermine our unity as a nation and that will not be good for his administration for the rest of his two years.
“Thirdly is that this same issue has occurred in several parastatals and nothing has been done about it”.
Liborous Oshoma, a lawyer and public policy analyst, condemned the development, reiterating that the matter should be investigated.
He called on the anti-graft agencies to carry out their duty on the matter, stating that those that undermine the federal character principle should be prosecuted.
“This is a clear fact, a committee does not need to be set up to look into the matter because this is a breach of the Constitution”. He said there was “tribalism” in the recruitment of the cadet officers.