All Public Commissions In Nigeria Established by the Constitution
Nigeria has been operating the presidential system of government since the beginning of the Second Republic in 1979. The 1979 Constitution and the succeeding constitutions of 1989 and 1999 have all provided for a presidential executive in which the President is the locus of federal authority.
In the discharge of his functions, the president is assisted by the VicePresident, Ministers, Special Advisers, Special Assistants and an array of other staff. The civil service also assists the government in the implementation of its progammes.
Beside all these, the constitutions also provide for the establishment of certain federal executive bodies or commissions whose members (except the ex-officio members) are appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate.
The extent and scope of the power vested in the President may be obvious if we consider the objectives and functions of these public commissions, which are set up by the constitution.
Limitations On The Authority Of The President Over The Commissions
Although the public commissions are part of the executive and members are appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate (National Assembly), the power of the President over these commissions are checked in a number of ways.
First, the ex-officio members of the commissions, though appointed by the President, can only be removed on the basis of an address supported by a two-thirds majority of members of the Upper House for a removal either for misconduct or inability to perform functions.
Second, members of the NationalPopulation Commission automatically lose their jobs if the President, on the advice of the Council of State, rejects the results of a national census conducted by the commission.
Third, the constitution expressly guarantees the independence of certain federal executive bodies such as the Code of Conduct Bureau, the NationalJudicial Council, the Federal Civil Service Commission, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the Federal Character Commission and the NationalPopulation Commission.
This is, meant to prevent interference by the executive in the discharge of their functions. But constitutional guarantees alone may not be sufficient to prevent presidential tyranny.
Finally, executive interference in the activities of these public commissions has always been a major source of political and constitutional crises.
For example, the Federal Military Government annulled results of the presidential election held on June 12, 1993 in spite of the determination of the National Electoral Commission led by ProfessorHumphrey Nwosu to declare the winner of the election. The national census conducted in 1962 was cancelled by the federal government, because some regions allegedly inflated their population.
The recount of 1963 and the new census that took place in 1964 also failed to receive national acceptance.
In some cases, the public commissions are starved of funds while on other occasions, funds are released to the commissions late. The Independent National Electoral Commission and the National Population Commission seemed to have suffered most in this regard.
For example, the proposal by INEC to purchase some vehicles for the conduct of the 2007 elections at a cost of N160+ million was delayed for months because the Due Process Unit in the Presidency felt the vehicles should not cost more than N148 million.
It should be emphasized that some of the commissions have not been effective because they are bogged down by bureaucratic bottlenecks and inertia. The public is seldom aware of their activities. Some adopt the fire brigade approach to their work and are only active on the prompting of the executive or when they are severely criticised by the public.
Some of the commissions are steeped in corruption. For example, the Director of Legal Services of the IndependentNational Electoral Commission was relieved of his appointment in 2002 for misapplication of funds. During the national census conducted in March2006, some of the working materials meant for enumerators such as umbrellas and torchlights were diverted to private use while some enumerators were short-paid in a few states by corrupt officials.
As a result, the enumerators who should be on the field doing their work of counting people were either busy chasing their claims or demonstrating to draw public attention to their plight.
In Borno State, the National Papulation Commission (NPC) even took the unlikely decision to prosecute is census controllers who illegally hoarded some census materials including NPC form 01 in which particulars of the enumerated people are filled into. You often hear when these cases are charged to court but nothing more after. Thus, people are arrested for various electoral offences but they’are seldom charged or convicted or jailed.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for instance could not prosecute more than 900,000 people who commit various electoral offences during the April 2011 elections due to logistic reasons.
Addition on Public Commissions In Nigeria
The question is therefore not whether these institutions have performed up to expectation. For if they have carried out their functions efficiently and effectively, Nigerians will have ample confidence in their government and its ability to deliver goods and services.
They will have confidence in the judiciary, the electoral system, the lawenforcement agencies, the civil service, etc. But unfortunately this appears not to be the case today. This is largely because many of the federal and state executive bodies are not effective in the performance of their onerous functions.