Appointing Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria -By Eze Onyekpere


The President is elected as the chief executive officer of the Federation as well as the commander in chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Although the presidential system of government seeks to portray a president as all-powerful superhuman, he is human, just one man with human challenges and can only work for a limited number of hours in a day, month and year. The law recognizes that he must appoint persons to assist him to govern, such as ministers and advisers. This discourse reviews the qualities expected of such assistants against the background of Nigeria’s decayed economic, social and political life.

Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution is clear when it provided that: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation:(a) shall be vested in the President and may subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any law made by the National Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the vice-president and ministers of the government of the federation or officers in the public service of the federation; and (b) shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, all laws made by the National Assembly and to all matters with respect to which the National Assembly has, for the time being, power to make laws.”

From this provision, it is clear that the quality of governance expected from the president will to a great extent be determined by the quality of his team including the vice president, ministers, advisers and even the quality of the public service. It is also an aphorism that the quality of advice or service an adviser or minister can render is dependent on the expanse and quality of knowledge available to him, including his life experiences, character, competencies and the nobility of his volition.

The Constitution that gave the president the authorisation to appoint ministers also gave the power of their vetting and confirmation to the Senate of the Federal Republic. Specifically, the Constitution provides in S.147 that: “(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 eachState, who shall be an indigene of such state.”

By the foregoing, the number of ministers is to be determined by the president as well as the portfolio to be assigned to each minister. And the president is required to observe the federal character principle including appointing one minister from each state. The constitutional provision comes with a mischief in that it is after the nomination of the president has been confirmed by the senate that the ministerial position will now be assigned by the president to the nominee. This mischief is what has guaranteed round pegs in square holes and persons with little or no knowledge of the subject matter of their ministries being appointed ministers to oversee the sector.

It is fit and proper that the president should forward the names of ministerial nominees with the actual sectors and portfolios they will be asked to occupy. This affords the senate the opportunity to ask them proper and relevant questions during ministerial screening to determine their suitability. They will be asked to address real life challenges of the sector and proffer appropriate responses to the challenges. This will give the nominee the opportunity, even if he is not a sector expert, to consult, research and gain sectoral and relevant knowledge before he is appointed. This will guarantee that ministers understand their area of operation or be forced to seek knowledge before confirmation.

Furthermore, the president should select his team early and announce the same not later than one week after his swearing in and assign portfolios to them. Recall that the president is usually elected in late February and will be sworn in at the end of May – a three months interval. The president after selecting them should have gone on retreat(s) with the proposed ministers where they will present their sectoral ideas in accordance with the president’s election manifesto and national development plans. These ideas will be finetuned by the entire team and experts invited to help the administration have a firm footing of the respective subject matters. It will also give the ministerial delegates an opportunity for consultations and interactions with critical stakeholders in the sector before they formally assume office.

These recommendations are not particularly novel and similar recommendations that former presidents nominate ministers with their portfolios have been shut down on the ground that nomination of ministers is a presidential prerogative. This discourse responds to that position by stating that presidential prerogatives are not given by the constitution for mere atavism or in a vacuum. They are provided for the good governance of the country and as such, where they are not delivering to the higher goals of society, they must yield to the demands of good governance and societal improvement.

For President Bola Tinubu, it is imperative to advise that he avoids in his nomination of ministers, persons who have uncleared cases with the anti-corruption agencies or currently facing corruption charges. The implication of appointing them is that their cases will be discontinued or abandoned as no anti-corruption chief will summon the courage to proceed against the president’s anointed. Yes, they are covered by the presumption of innocence, but that presumption does not erect men and women whose character has become so notorious for all to see, to become immaculate angels of light. He should also avoid the bulk of previous ministers especially all who served under the Buhari administration and contributed to the rot in the economic, social and political life of the nation. He should also avoid the former governors who have in no small measure contributed to national economic stagnation, moral and societal bankruptcy.

It is important that the team is manageable and does not become unwieldy in a bid to pay back political supporters. Thus, there will be no need for a minister of state, no state should be assigned an inferior ministerial position; just one minister per state will be enough. They should be 37 to cover the 36 states and the federal capital territory. Finally, to ensure that the team meets expectations, the president should design performance indicators, targets and milestones for the ministers. These sectoral targets should not just be given to ministers but made available to the public who can help the president in the assessment of their performance.


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