State of residence yet to replace state of origin

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

Analysts have said despite the campaign promises of the Federal Government in 2015, the country is still witnessing discrimination against citizens in different spheres of life.

The ruling APC had pledged to “initiate a policy to ensure that Nigerians are free to live and work in any part of the country by removing state of origin, tribe, ethnic and religious affiliations and replace them with just state of residence.” But this has not been done.

Discrimination against persons based on their states of origin has remained a recurring issue in Nigeria. For instance, a former acting Chief Judge of Cross River State, Akon Ikpeme, was denied confirmation due to her state of origin. She is from Akwa Ibom State.

Similarly, controversies over the elevation to the Court of Appeal of Justices Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo in 2012 and Patricia Mahmoud in 2015 from Abia and Kano states respectively were attributed to their states of origin.

This shows that Nigeria has not made enforcement of the abolition of state of origin syndrome as provided in Sections 41 and 42 mandatory.

Prof. Yusuf Zoaka, the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Abuja, listed religion, merit versus quota system, resource control and security as some of the several contentious issues limiting national unity.

Prof. Zoaka said the elite in their bid to access national resources manipulated the fault lines, adding that the president’s concentration of most of the heads of security agencies in the North was a major impediment to national unity.

He said, “If there is security of lives and property, nobody will complain about who is the security chief or where they come from. But when you have issues such as herders-farmers clashes, Boko Haram attacks, there will be fear and suspicion in the minds of the people. If there is equity in the system, most Nigerians would not bother about state of origin.”

The Executive Director of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), Frank Tietie, said the Federal Government had failed in its duty to ensure fairness for all.

Speaking on the issue, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) condemned all forms of discrimination as unconstitutional.

Another lawyer, Hamid Ajibola Jimoh, argued that the country was still practicing discrimination, citing the case of the refusal to confirm a female judge as the Chief Judge of Cross River State.

Jimoh said, “Section 14(3) and the entire Section 14 discourages discrimination in public office, but are not complied with. So, there is no reality of its implementation.”

Prof. Sheriff Ghali-Ibrahim of the Department of Political Science, University of Abuja, said Nigerians were the first category of people who felt the impact of discrimination and wondered why the Federal Government was failing in accommodating the people into governance.

Prof. Ghali-Ibrahim said, “The issue is: have they (FG) fulfilled what they promised to achieve or are there some intervening variables which have actually contributed to a complete fiasco? Nigerians are being discriminated against and things are falling apart.”

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