Buhari as minister of petroleum resources

President Muhammadu Buhari

Without a doubt, Section 138 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, bars the President of Nigeria from taking any paid employment or holding executive office in any capacity. In similar vein, Section 147(2) supra emphatically provides that ‘any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President.’ These provisions have triggered up controversies questioning the eligibility of President Muhammadu Buhari for doubling as the Minister of Petroleum Resources with Dr. Ibe Kachikwu as Minister of State after the pattern of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight years in office.

Objectively, the earlier provision is aimed at avoiding ‘double rations’; that is, circumventing the President from earning from the Federal Government any other entitlements other than those due to the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It simply indicates that the President on no account will be entitled to any other remuneration as a minister except those allocated to the office he was elected by the people. As for duties, in fact, the ministers are confirmed for aiding the president in his executive functions. As provided, the offices of the ministers of the federation are statutorily permissible considerately as workforces, and solely accountable to the President for executing the blueprints and day-to-day policy-making of the government; thus the power of hire and fire liberally vested in the President unlike on all other workforce in the ministries.

Unequivocally, Section 147 (1) provides that ‘there shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President’ which connotes that appointment of ministers are under unfettered discretion of the President. A cursory look at subsection (2) which vests powers to the Senate to confirm the nominees will convincingly show that its core objective is to ensure that only persons with basic qualification and of no criminal records are appointed as captains in the Federal Executive Council. To puncture any form of ambiguity or controversy; while subsection (5) pegs the minimum qualification to that of the members of the House of Representatives, subsection (3) hammers on federal character only, as overriding principle in line with Section 14(3) supra. Based on the above guidelines, is it conceivable that a person occupying the hallowed office of the President is ineligible to be a member of the lower legislative arm? Ridiculously, no contemplation for productivity; what a costly faux pas!

The estimations of the contenders will therefore be splendid and robust only when the National Assembly amends the constitution to screen ministerial nominees vis-à-vis their proposed portfolios. Put more succinctly, screening strictly for the exact ministry to head. But where the portfolios are open with mere basic qualification, then the president can take up a ministerial position provided he is not remunerated as a minister alongside the presidential packages. Commonsensically or under normal circumstance, a sitting president of a country screened and elected by the people couldn’t have been deficient over basic qualification. Thus, the President requires no further screening while in office except when the constitution reviews ministerial appointment to be strictly on professionalism and not as the President wishes. Then, appointments will be static and each nominee will be screened based on the specific portfolio to handle.

Secondly, by subsection (6), it is clear that an appointment not cleared by the Senate within twenty-one working days is deemed to have been confirmed which points to the fact that Senate must not in actual fact confirm all appointments. The contentious issue is akin to the Ministries of Power, Works and Housing that are captained by a minister; Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN. Of course, it is not in breach of any laws so long as not remunerated as triple position. Generally, the essence of ministers’ appointment is to put in place unswerving linkage between the President and the ministries for efficient communication, administration and smooth-running of government policies.

Conversely, my position will be altered for specialised ministries like Ministry of Justice that combines the office of the Minister with Attorney General of the Federation, and specifically, for a senior practising lawyer alongside other specified qualifications. By implications, non-lawyers cannot fit in and a President, even if he is a senior in the bar cannot at the same time wear the shoes of the Attorney General of the Federation. To conclude, the president takes responsibility of all activities in his administration including actions of his ministers, and therefore, if in his discretion elects to take up a ministerial position with a minister of state in place strategically to be abreast of all dealings and transactions in a particular core sector, he is not in breach of any laws. By the arrangement, the president is merely supervising while a professional in the sector handles operations as the Minister of State. Basically, it implies that the president desires to be detailed on daily basis on activities. Nonetheless, the existing arrangement which doesn’t screen nominees based on specific portfolios may not always boost productivity as square pegs may rarely find themselves in square holes.

Umegboro, a public affairs analyst wrote from Abuja.



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