Discordant tunes trail Buhari’s plan for ‘ministers without portfolios’
Fashola, Adewole, Ocholi may head ministries of Power, Education, Justice
AS Nigerians await President Muhammadu Buhari’s allocation of portfolios to his ministers-designate already confirmed by the Senate, opinions are divided over the likelihood that some of them may be without portfolios.
The President had, in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, said the economy was not buoyant enough to pay the huge wage bill so many ministers would entail.
But while stakeholders disagree, there were indications yesterday that former Lagos State Governor, Raji Fasola may be heading to the Ministry of Power while the former governorship aspirant in Kogi State, James Ocholi San may have been penciled down as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
Though, information about the portfolios of the ministers-designate was still scanty by
yesterday evening, the senator representing Central Kaduna District, Shehu Sani and a former governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa say there is nothing wrong with Buhari appointing ministers and not allocating them individual portfolios while the chairman of the Port Harcourt branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dennis Okwakpam, said it is unconscionable to appoint ministers with portfolio and not pay them salaries.
Similarly, while Professor of Law in the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Prof. Gab Agu and two other lawyers, Mr. John Nwobodo and Olu Omotayo agreed that it was within the President’s prerogative to appoint ministers without assigning them portfolios, a former Attorney General of Enugu State and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Anthony Ani, said such a step by the president would be unconstitutional.
Another SAN , Sabastin Hon said the decision to tinker with ministers is at the discretion of the president going by the express provisions of the constitution.
“It’s at Mr. President’s discretion. Under the constitution, combined reading of sections 5, 147 and 148 show that the President has almost an unlimited discretion in terms of appointing ministers and assigning portfolios to them. He is the chief executive officer and he knows where it is pinching him most.”
According to Sani and Musa, there is no constitutional provision barring Buhari from appointing 36 ministers with some of them manning designated ministries, while others function as non-
But Okwakpam told The Guardian that if Buhari intended to reduce the cost of governance, he ought to have forwarded a bill to the National Assembly as soon as he was sworn-in to seek for an amendment of the constitutional provision that provides for at least one minister to be appointed from each state of the federation.
Agreeing with Buhari, however, Agu and Nwobodo in separate interviews told The Guardian in Enugu that what was important was representation of each state in the cabinet, stressing that such would mean contributing to issues of governance.
Agu said: “The constitution did not give express approval that every minister should be assigned with portfolio. It is within the prerogative of the president to assign such portfolios as he wishes.”
On his part, Nwobodo, who is also the state chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), stated that it was important that the ministers contribute to policy issues of governance.
Omotayo said what was important was appointing the ministers to reflect federal character and not their portfolios.
But a law lecturer at the University of Lagos, Dr Fassy Yusuf said: “I don’t know what the president means by that, maybe he will appoint them Ministers of State. He can not do such thing; that would be a constitutional aberration. Ministers are not appointed until they are assigned portfolios.
I think what he is saying is that they would not be assigned substantive portfolios but serve as Ministers of State.’
‘‘If he wants to minimise cost, then he should direct the Revenue Allocation, Mobilization and Fiscal Commission (RAMFC) to reduce the salaries of public officers.”
Expressing his own view, a Lagos lawyer, Chief Michael Agbamuche said: “Are they even going to attend the meeting of the Federal Executive Council? He needs to clarify issues. If you are attending FEC meeting, representing Benue State for instance and you don’t have any ministry that you are assigned to, it is not a proper representation of the state. It means they won’t have a stake in governance. That is why the constitution says 36 ministers for 36 states.”
The source, which maintained that Fashola was heading to the Power ministry said given the importance of the ministry to the development of the nation, the President is rooting for Fasola to help deliver the President’s promise on power to the nation.
Ocholi is being considered as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice based on his excellent performance during his screening at the Senate.
Former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Audu Ogbe is penciled down for Agriculture based on his success as a farmer.
Others believed to have been assigned portfolios include former governor of Ekiti state, Dr Kayode Fayemi ,former National Chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Dr Ogbonnaya Onu for the Ministry of Works and Gen Abdulrahman Dambazau for the Ministry of Defence.
Sources in the presidency disclosed that Okechukwu Enelamah may head the Finance Ministry, Ondo-born Professor of Sociology, Cladius Daramola may be posted to the Ministry of Interior while former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi may be posted to the Ministry of Niger Delta.