The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who pleaded that his position should not be seen as that of someone not grateful to the President for his appointment, said several factors made the designation of an appointee as a Minister of State an aberration and at the same time a figure head in the scheme of things.
He said that he hoped people would not misconstrue his thoughts about the office of minister of state because, according to him, he was given free hands to operate even as a junior minister in Buhari’s cabinet.
He said, “Mr. President, the concept or designation of “Minister of State” is a constitutional aberration and is practically not working for many so appointed. 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.
“As a private citizen, I am on record to have gone to court a number of times to challenge unconstitutional acts of governments for the sake of advancing our constitutional democracy, so it will be out of character for me to have gone through government and be carried away by the pomp of public office and forget my role as a member of the Inner Bar and my self-imposed role over the years as a crusader for democracy and constitutionalism.”
He said, “The Schedules of Duties of Ministers and Ministers of State that intend to cure some of these anomalies hardly help the issues. Firstly, the Schedules of Duties are observed more in breach by the Permanent Secretaries and Directors who really cannot be expected to serve two masters. And in any case, many of the roles of both Ministers are so ambiguous that the bureaucrats would always interpret them to satisfy the ones they see as the “Senior Ministers” or “main Ministers” for fear of being persecuted by them.
“Secondly, parts of the Schedules of Duties seem to suggest that the Ministers can delegate functions to the Ministers of State. This is a constitutional impossibility. It is only Mr. President that can delegate Presidential powers as one cannot delegate what he does not have (delegatus non potest delegare). In any case, how can someone who took the same Oath of Office with another delegate functions to that other?
“Thirdly, the Schedules of Duties leave so many gaping holes that bring conflicts between the Ministers and Ministers of State. In addition, the provision that “Ministers of State” cannot present Memos in Council, except with the permission of the Minister, is another anomaly. It means the discretion of the Minister of State is subsumed in the discretion of the Minister, yet both of them represent different States in Cabinet.
“It also follows that it would be difficult to assess the individual performances of the Ministers of State since their discretion is shackled under the discretion of the Ministers. Original ideas developed by a Minister of State are subject to clearance by another colleague in Cabinet before they can sail through for consideration by Council. The drafters of our Constitution obviously did not intend this.
“As a result, many Ministers of State are largely redundant, with many going to the office for symbolic purpose and just to while away the time. Files are passed to them to treat only at the discretion of the other Minister and the Permanent Secretary. Yet, the Ministers of State will receive either praise or condemnation for the successes or failures of such Ministries.”