Buhari Ends Eight – year Tenure with Valedictory Cabinet Meeting
By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari technically ended his eight-year tenure as he presided over a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The Council consideration its last memorandum as tenure of the administration elapses in five days on Monday, May 29.
The meeting was intended for Ministers to put finishing touches, to a number of documents as well as treat outstanding issues from the various government Ministries, Departments and Agencies ahead of the exit of the administration next Monday .
Yesterday’s FEC meeting held behind closed doors in the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja was characterised by a flurry of activities with a rash of last-minute approvals and appointments.
Before the valedictory session, which was preceded by exchange of banters among cabinet members, President Buhari performed the swearing-in of seven Federal Commissioners of the Revenue Mobilisation, Fiscal and Allocation Commission (RMFC).
Those sworn- in by the President before commencement of the valedictory session were Peter Okpara (Imo), Senator Ayogu Eze (Enugu), Kolade Abimbola (Oyo), Rekiya Ayuba-Haruna (Kebbi), Hauwa Aliyu (Jigawa), Ismaila Agaka (Kwara), and Amb Ayuba Ngako representing the FCT.
The Council also received the key highlights of the report of the Health Reform Committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The Committee was put in place to develop a roadmap to achieving Universal Health Coverage in the country.
Among its recommendations include improving funding of the health sector above 10 percent.
Minister of State, Unconstitutional, Says Keyamo
The outgoing Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has told President Muhammadu Buhari that it was an out of the law of the nation to appoint a Minister of State.
Keyamo stated this on Wednesday, during the valedictory session presided over by President Buhari to mark the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), under the current administration at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Minister of State, who commended the President for enriching his Curriculum Vitae, through the appointment, noted that some other Ministers of State, have been grumbling and unable to be bold and speak out.
He said it would be difficult to assess the individual performances of the Ministers of State since their discretion was shackled under the discretion of the ‘superior Ministers’ as any 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.
His text read: “Mr. President, you first appointed me as Minister of State in the Ministry Niger Delta Affairs in August, 2019 and you later redeployed me as Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
“Today, I cannot find the words to express the depth of my gratitude to you for finding me worthy, out of over two hundred million Nigerians, to be nominated and subsequently appointed to serve as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. My curriculum vitae has been greatly enhanced – forever.
“From my very humble beginnings in a small dusty town in Delta State where I was born and raised by my struggling parents, all the way to the Council Chambers at the Presidential Villa where I had the honour and privilege to participate weekly in decision-making for my country in the last four years, it has been like a fairy tale. I give God all the glory.
“What I am about to say, therefore, is not and should not be construed as an indication of ingratitude. Far from it. What I am about to say is just my own little contribution to our constitutional development as a relatively young democracy and to aid future governments to optimize the performance of those they appoint as Ministers.
“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.”
Supporting his position with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Keyamo said, “Mr. President, I crave your indulgence to explain this constitutional conundrum of “Minister of State”. Sections 147 and 148 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), deal with the appointments and responsibilities of Ministers of the Federation. The said sections state as follows:
Section 147 “(1) There shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President.
“(2) Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President.
“(3) Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(3) of this Constitution:- provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State.”
Section 148 “(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.”
“Furthermore, the 7th Schedule to the 1999 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.
“In addition to the above, the Ministers-designate appear before the Senate and are grilled and cleared AS MINISTERS, not as Ministers in some instances and Ministers of State in some other instances. It is at the point of assignment of portfolios that successive Presidents then reclassified some as “Ministers of State.”
Keyano insisted that though the President has the constitutional powers to assign portfolio to his appointees, he said that such appointment must be in line with the constitutional provision.
He said, “Some may want to justify this by saying the President is given the discretion by the Constitution to assign whatever responsibility(ies) he likes to Ministers. Yes, I concede Mr. President can do that, but not by a designation different from that prescribed by the Constitution.
“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?
“What is more, Ministers are appointed pursuant to Section 147(3) of the 1999 Constitution to represent each State of the Federation. Therefore, Ministers sit in Cabinet as the eye of Mr. 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.
“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.”
He argued that the unconstitutional development has led to having ministers that were idle or redundant.
“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.
The Minister said, “Many Ministerial Retreats have been held to try and resolve the issues between Ministers and Ministers of State. President Obasanjo held four of such Retreats, with the last one holding at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos, from 23rd to 25th February, 2001. Yet, the problems persisted.
“Mr. President, unknown to many successive Presidents and the general public, these conflicts gravely affect the optimal performance of Governments. What is the way forward?
“Obviously, the argument that two Ministers are cramped into some Ministries in order not to unnecessarily proliferate Ministries and therefore, save Government’s money is no longer tenable. This is because Government does not need any extra infrastructure or more money to maintain all Senior 36 Ministers or even a bit more appointed as is now the custom” he stated.
“In my case, whilst the Schedule of my colleague had to do more with Labour and Productivity, mine had to do more with Employment. The Directorates in my Ministry that were under my office would then be fully under the Minister of Employment, without any double loyalty to the Minister of Labour and Productivity.
“We can also have a Minister of Trade and another Minister of Investment. We can have a Minister of Education (Tertiary) and another Minister of Education (Primary and Secondary); we can have a Minister of Mines and another Minister of Steel; we can have a Minister of Works and another Minister of Housing and so on and so forth.
“In all of these, no extra infrastructure is needed to sustain this suggested arrangement. The present infrastructure and present personnel in the Ministries can very well sustain it. It will be at no extra cost to government. This is preferable than successive governments continuing with this present unconstitutional arrangement,” he stressed.
Senate Defers Valedictory Session to Saturday
Trailed by unresolved wrangling over the election of its principal officers in the 10th assembly, the Senate yesterday postponed its earlier announced valedictory session.
The Green Chamber is yet to agree on who occupies what position in the incoming Senate principal officers’ election, following the All Progressives Congress (APC) to allocate the positions to the six geo-political zones of the country.
The APC National Working Committee (NWC) had zoned the Senate Presidency of the forthcoming 10th National Assembly to the South-South; and the Speakership of the House of Representatives to the North-West.The party also zoned the Deputy Senate Presidency to the North-West, and Deputy Speakership to the South-East.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, announced yesterday that the Senate has rescheduled its valedictory session to Saturday.
On the other hand, the House Representatives yesterday held its Valedictory Session.
Lawan had announced on Tuesday that the Upper Chamber would hold its valedictory session on Thursday.
The Senate President told members of the Senate Press Corps that the shift in the date was due to a scheduled meeting of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu with the lawmakers of the incoming 10th National Assembly on Thursday.
The Senate held plenary on Tuesday as well as yesterday.
“By the grace of God, we will still hold plenary today and then our valedictory session will be on Saturday.
“It is because tomorrow, Mr President, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be meeting with the Senators-elect and members-elect at 2pm.
“And we believe that a session as significant, important, historical and memorable as valedictory session of the Senate requires a whole day. Not one, two, three hours. And therefore we pushed it to Saturday,” Lawan said.
The Ninth Senate officially ends its four-year tenure on 11th June, 2023.
Lawan hinted that the 10th Senate would be inaugurated on Tuesday, 13th June, 2023.
Memories, Emotions as Reps Dissolve 9th Assembly
By Eze Okechukwu & Ubong Ukpong, Abuja
Memories and emotions went high yesterday during the valedictory session of the House of Representatives, as Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila officially dissolved the 9th assembly.
Rep. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, the Majority Leader of the House, had moved a motion to commence the valedictory session, while Rep Ndudi Elumelu, the Minority Leader seconded the motion.
Gbajabiamila, in his valedictory speech, said: “I will miss all of you and miss this house, you have enriched my life and I cannot express how much you have impacted the house.
In an emotion laden speech, Gbajabiamila said the joint efforts in nation building by members were to ensure that the dreams of the nation’s founding fathers did not die.
“We have come, we have seen and while we are yet to conquer, my enthusiasm to serve remained undiminished,” he said.
According to him, it has been the honour of his life to serve the people of the country.
“I thank my constituency and I express gratitude to my colleagues for the privilege to serve.”
He said since he assumed office, the house had changed drastically in such a manner he had not witnessed, adding that the change came with speed as witnessed in the last four years.
He said the 9th House of Reps had governed well with some interventions, including COVID-19 pandemic, Police Reform Bill, Electoral Acts Amendment Bill, Constitutional Review, among others.
“We have worked to take advantage of social and economic transformation that benefit us; we have left our mark on every sectors of our national life,” he said.
He said the House was able to introduce discipline on the Appropriation Act that now commenced from January to December of every year.
According to him, the 9th House of Reps has ended and the 10th will commence.
“I urge you to ensure that you are not found wanting by man or God in the final judgment.”
Also, Rep. Julius Ihovhre (APC-Edo), said he would forever cherish the friendship he made in the 9th assembly, adding that such relationship would last forever.
He commended the speaker for leading the house well and perfectly and demonstrated that he could manage a diverse group of people.
“In your new roles as the Chief of Staff to the President, the challenges you will face are more than here, we plead with you not to abandon the spirit of excellence,” he said.
He said Nigeria required the kind of leader with a sense of mission, while urging Gbajabiamila to ensure the Federal Government paid attention to basic education.
Rep. Luke Onofiong (PDP-Akwa-Ibom) said members had made relationships that would last forever and commended his constituency for giving him the privilege to serve.
He commended the speaker for accommodating members and relaxing the rules to give new members a voice, noting that the speaker was gentle enough to accommodate their errors.
He urged the house to take the judiciary seriously with salary review.
Rep. Yusuf Gadgi (APC-Plateau) on his part said, “In my constituency, Muslims are 30 per cent while Christians constitute 70 per cent but they have always sent me here and for using me as a good example of how Nigeria should behave.
“What I want to say is the message of forgiveness, I want, on your behalf and other members, to forgive one another. In this assignment, we must have offended one another.
His comment on forgiveness generated some uproar, as members grumbled endlessly.
Unperturbed, Gagdi said “irrespective of the grumbling, what is right is right and people must learn to forgive others”.
Rep. Aisha Duku (APC-Borno) expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve as the first woman to represent her constituency.
“Mr Speaker you have blessed me to bless others, I have changed the perspective of politics in my area because this is the first time that a Fulani woman and a Muslim will come out from that area.
“I have been able to enlighten people and bring out the women to vote, which hitherto they had not.
“I have participated in Bills assented to by the president and today they are laws, I commend my committee as the Chairman, House Committee on INEC, for supporting me.
Duku said she was now a better Nigerian, as she traveled to a lot of places in the country but her only regret was that no gender bill was passed.
In attendance at the session of the 9th assembly were former speakers, House Leader such as Gali Na’abba, Patricia Etteh, Mulikat Akande and some former clerks of NASS.
Tinubu Directs NEC to Work on Subsidy Removal Palliatives
By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
President Bola Tinubu, yesterday directed the National Economic Council (NEC) led by Vice President Kashim Shettima to device an approach and begin the process of working on interventions to mitigate the impact of subsidy removal on the Nigerians.
Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, stated this after leading some major oil marketers on a courtesy visit to the President at the State House in Abuja.
Addressing correspondents after the meeting, Abiodun, who was a former chairman of the oil marketers association, stated that the marketers expressed solidarity with the President for removing the N4trn subsidy burden, a move that can enhance the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) allocation to states.
The group of marketers subsequently announced their intention to donate to 50 to 100, fifty-seater mass transit buses that would run on CNG, costing N100m each and N10bn cumulatively, to cushion the effect of the removal within the next 30 days.
They are hoping other corporate bodies can emulate their action.
The President’s meeting with the oil marketers comes amid the controversy and protests trailing the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit known as petrol.
President Tinubu, during his inaugural speech on May 29 at the Eagle Square in Abuja had announced the removal of subsidy payment on petrol. The President said that the immediate past administration of Muhammadu Buhari did not make provisions for subsidy in the 2023 budget beyond June.
Many Nigerians had expected that the new price regime would come into effect by July 1 but almost immediately after the presidential pronouncement, queues resurfaced at filling stations across the country even as retail outlets hoard the product and increase prices.
Already, a litre of petrol is being sold at over N500 across the country following NNPC price adjustment and the presidential pronouncement on subsidy removal.
Fuel queues have since surged for the vital commodity, compounding the traffic situation in parts of the country, even as transportation cost skyrocket to more than 100% increment.
The Organised Labour had resolved to embark on a nationwide strike beginning Wednesday but was restrained by a court order of Monday, June 5, 2023. The Organised Labour subsequently shelved its planned strike after a meeting with the Federal Government late Monday.
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