Keyamo: A Wake From The Power Nap

Keyamo: A Wake From The Power Nap




With respect, I have read the statement credited to the learned silk and outgoing Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo SAN, to the effect that the post of ‘Minister of State’ is a constitutional aberration. Being the spokesman of the now-dissolved Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council and outgoing Minister in that capacity, it is within reason if the learned silk had limited his speech to only advice or recommendation to the incoming government geared towards reduction in the cost of governance and not brought in the constitution to weight lift his dissatisfaction to the post, he considers belittling.

Constitutionally speaking, it is no anomaly or aberration for the President to create any ‘Ministry’ and accord it a name as it deems it necessary. The discretion as to offices [Senior or State] of Ministers of Government rests with the President. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 147 [1] of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended [hereafter called the Constitution] states that ‘there shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President’. The President’s discretion can only be checked by the Senate, as provided by Section 147[2] of the Constitution, which states that every appointment or nomination by the President shall be confirmed by the Senate.

Further to the above, the discretion of the President shall be exercised in conformity with Section 14[3] to the effect that the composition of the Government shall reflect the Federal Character. In other words, the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each state, who shall be an indigene of such State. See, Section 147[3]. Also, in exercising his discretion, the President may assign any responsibility for any business of the Government to any Minister. It follows, therefore, that if the President, in his wisdom, feels in meeting the agenda of his administration, the responsibilities of the Ministry of Labour and Employment can be done by a Senior and Junior Minister, he can delineate and assign the duties to each of them. He can also merge the said Ministry with another Ministry and either appoint a Minister to oversee such ministry or assign the responsibilities of the Ministry to his Vice President. See, Section 148[1].

The only Ministry in the Constitution that the President does not have power, as it were, to exercise discretion over, is the office of the Attorney General of the Federation [AGF]. The AGF is the chief law officer of the country and is also a minister in the cabinet. His status and office are a creation of the Constitution under Section 150[1] and the person who occupies the office must be a lawyer of not less than 10 years at the bar as provided in Section 150[2]. Little wonder, no government in our history has tempered with the office as to creating a Senior or Substantive or Junior AGF. Conventionally, every AGF has always been a Minister of Justice.

In conclusion, it is incontestable that Festus Keyamo SAN did well in the emergence of the outgoing administration and might have deserved a better reward than the post of Minister of State. Therefore, in advising the incoming administration, which he has also helped to bring to power, he ought to have drawn the attention of his audience to why he has not performed optimally and the ministry [employment] he superintends has been in comatose for four years. As an advocate, he is gifted with eloquence to sell himself more to the incoming administration which may, perhaps, be exercising restraint and fear in nominating him again for any ministerial post judging by his poor outing. It is cheap and unpatriotic to attempt hoodwinking the incoming administration for whatever reason using the law or Constitution.

Obanyero is a legal practitioner and an advocate for fair and equal access to legal services and justice.

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