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Ministers of State is Not an Aberration to the Nigerian Constitution

Ministers of State is Not an Aberration to the Nigerian Constitution

After Wednesday’s federal executive council meeting which happens to be the last cabinet meeting of this political dispensation, Mr. Festus Keyamo SAN, the minister of state for labour and employment in his closing address to President Muhammad Buhari raised a very controversial point which has got everyone talking. He after thanking President Buhari for appointing him and affording him the opportunity to serve as a minister educated President Buhari that though he is grateful to have been appointed and designated as a junior minister but “minister of state is an aberration to the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria”. Mr Keyamo relied on section 147 of the constitution in driving home his point that Mr. Buhari committed a constitutional blunder by appointing Ministers of state.

Here are the  provisions of S147(1);

  1. (1) There shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President.

Mr Keyamo insisted that according to sub 1 of this quoted section, the provision mentioned particularly that there shall be “Ministers of the Government of the Federation” and never Ministers of states or minister of the government of the Federation and ministers of the states hence where he is basing his argument that the appointment of some ministers as ministers of states is totally never provided for in our constitution. 

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Well, reading S 148 together with S147 you will see that the constitution accords the president the discretion to appoint a minister and designate any portfolio he deems fit on that minister be it the portfolio of a full-fledged ministry or the portfolio of a junior minister. 

Section 148 provides thus; 

  1. (1) The President may, in his discretion, assign to the Vice-President or any Minister of the Government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of government.

Mr. Keyamo, just in the bid to win his argument, tactically focused on S147 of the constitution but intentionally avoided making mention of S148 which gives the president the power to designate any minister to any portfolio that the president wants. 

It is as well important to note that we share similar arrangements with a country like the USA but in the USA instead of the moniker “Ministers” which we chose to call our executive cabinet members here, the USA call theirs “secretaries” and in the place of Ministers of state, the USA call theirs “undersecretaries” and it is all constitutionally provided and never unconstitutional as Mr. Keyamo claims.

Maybe Festus Keyamo is just giving a heads-up to the incoming administration that he was never happy to be appointed as a junior minister clamped under a senior minister by the Buhari administration, hence if this incoming administration is having the intention of appointing him a junior minister again they should die the idea or he is genuinely protecting the constitutional provisions as he claimed but if he is fighting for the constitution as he claimed and not for his personal interest, then the question will be why didn’t he raise this assertion four years ago when he was appointed as a “minister of state”, he would have turned down the appointment on the grounds that “Minister of state” is an aberration to our constitution then we could have taken him serious but he waited till his last official executive council meeting to make this known.

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