A United Nations independent expert on minority issues, Rita Izsak, has advocated for the conduct of a Staff Identification Survey (SIS) by the federal government in order to have a comprehensive data base that will be useful in checking claims and counter-claims of marginalisation in government appointments by different groups in the country.
Izsak, who rounded off a 12-day visit to different parts of the country to collect information on the current state of minority issues, made the call at a press briefing, which also included civil society organisations, in Abuja at the weekend.
She indicated that although some of the conflicts which have been going on in the Middle Belt and some part of the North are seen as caused by religion and ethnicity, there are other underlying factors, such as â€œunequal allocation of resources,â€ which is the bone of contention.
According to her, the need for the SIS cannot be over-emphasised despite the fact that the Federal Character Commission (FCC) exists to ensure that there is balance and equity in the appointments of Nigerians into public offices.
The expert, who noticed that in the course of her visit, she discovered that issues relating to minority rights in the country include ethnicity, religion, language, indigene-settler dichotomy, noted that various stakeholders clamoured for good governance and peaceful co-existence as panacea to the problem.
â€œIn all of my numerous consultations with stakeholders, including government officials at the federal and local levels, non-governmental organisations, academics, journalists, religious and community leaders and ordinary citizens, they all stated the need for good governance to ensure minority rights, equality and peaceful coexistence,â€ she said.
She observed that â€œpartisan politics and the reality or the perception of bias and favouritism along ethnic and religious lines fuel distrust, suspicion and anger.
â€œEthnic or religious patronage and the ever-present problem of corruption must be challenged and defeated at every level and in every sphere of society for ordinary citizens to regain trust in Nigeriaâ€™s political leaders and institutions.â€
Izsak noticed that the FCC must step up efforts to collect data on the composition of the nationâ€™s staff for it to reverse the prevailing lack of statistics on such, which she said hampered any attempt to make an unbiased assessment or appointment.
She told THISDAY that: â€œAt the FCC, one of the challenges that we came across was lack of statistics. All was stories. There was no factual data to make assessments with. In this situation, it is difficult to come up with something reliable,â€
â€œI met with the FCC and I consider that the principles of guaranteeing equality of state representation in federal institutions and administration are a valuable and positive practice,â€ adding that â€œmany actors have a role in promoting and protecting human rights in Nigeria and strengthening minority rights protection.â€