Two members of the cabinet of outgoing
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, described the establishment of Minister of State portfolios as unconstitutional.
Festus Keyamo, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, and Ramatu Aliyu, the Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory, described the designation which they have held for about four years as a constitutional aberration.
The cabinet members described the offices of the Minister of State, which they have held for about four years, as a constitutional aberration.
Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, described the establishment of Minister of State portfolios as unconstitutional.
“Mr. President, the concept or designation of ‘Minister of State’ is a constitutional aberration and is practically not working for many so appointed,” Mr Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said in his farewell message during the valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday.
Minister of State as used in Nigeria is a euphemism for junior minister, an equivalent of under-secretary in some Western countries.
Successive Nigerian presidents have created the positions of Minister of State to accommodate as much as possible loyalists and political interests in the cabinet.
With limited number of ministries available, the Ministers of State are deployed to some key ministries in second-fiddle capacity with no clear-cut responsibilities.
Festus Keyamo [PHOTO CREDIT: Festus Keyamo on Facebook]
Festus Keyamo [PHOTO CREDIT: Festus Keyamo on
Mr Keyamo said section 147 of the Nigerian constitution which establishes the offices of the Minister does not create any roles for the Ministers of State.
He added that the 7th Schedule to the Nigerian constitution provides for “the ‘Oath of Office’ to which each Minister must subscribe”.“There are no different Oaths for ‘Minister’ and ‘Ministers of State’. They all take the same Oath of Office,” he said.
Mr Keyamo, who became more widely known as a spokesperson for the presidential campaign council of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last general elections than with his cabinet position, said ministers-designate were screened by the Senate, only for some of them to be re-classified as “Ministers of State” at the point of assignment of portfolios
“Simply put, it is akin to the President assigning responsibilities to the office of the Vice-President and re-designating that office as ‘Deputy President’ under our present Constitution. That is clearly impossible. Why then should that of the Ministers be different?”
Also citing section 147(3) of the Nigerian constitutionton, Mr Keyamo said ministers sit in cabinet as the eye of the President in each state of the federation. “It is therefore against the intendment of the drafters of our Constitution for a representative of a State to be reclassified as against another representative of another state.”
Mr Keyamo, who was initially appointed as Minister of State for Niger Delta and within a short period was redeployed to the Ministry of Labour and Employment also as Minister of State, said his critical comment was not a mark of ingratitude.
“Successive governments have come and gone and many who were appointed as Ministers of State have not spoken out at a forum such as this because of the risk of sounding ungrateful to the Presidents who appointed them. However, like I said earlier, this is not ingratitude,” Mr Keyamo said.
Ms Aliyu also criticised the practice of having a Minister of State who must rise or fall with the substantive Minister.
“If you are appointed, if you serve your state, if you underwent the same training, you attend the same FEC representing your people. Why then is your voice hinged upon another minister’s voice? Why is lack of planning on another minister’s part an emergency on yours? Why is the label ineptitude now the label you will carry if he should fail?” She said.
She noted that although, ministers were given freehand to operate, the use of Ministers of State was its minus.