• I look forward to tending my cattle in Daura, says Buhari
• Appointing minister of state an aberration, Keyamo tells President
• Don’t appoint new Auditor General in four days to go, Buhari told
• President seeks Senate’s approval for N226b, $556.8m, £98.5m judgment debts
• Afe Babalola warns NASS against okaying fresh loan for Buhari
In an anti-climax, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, failed to dissolve his cabinet as he rather directed his ministers to return to their offices and continue working despite presiding over the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting for the last time in his eight-year administration.
Many had expected that the president would dissolve his cabinet at the valedictory FEC meeting in Abuja.
Even though the President had taken official pictures with the council after the meeting, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, debunked news making the rounds that the cabinet had been dissolved.
According to him, the dissolution is fake news, adding that the ministers will work until May 29.
The cabinet has been busy lately, putting finishing touches, crossing the ‘T’s and dotting the ‘I’s to a number of documents, considering last-minute approvals and appointments, as well as treating outstanding memoranda from various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) ahead of Monday’s handover.
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 were Peter Okpara (Imo), Senator Ayogu Eze (Enugu), Kolade Abimbola (Oyo), Rekiya Ayuba-Haruna (Kebbi), Hauwa Aliyu (Jigawa), Ismaila Agaka (Kwara), and Ayuba Ngako, representing the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Ahead of the closed-door session, the Council also received 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.
Despite the continue work order, President Buhari said he anxiously looks forward to doing those things he has not been able to do since May 29, 2015, especially his favourite pastime of tending to his cattle in his ancestral home of Daura, Katsina State.
Meeting with staff of the State House, the President thanked all the ministers for their steadfastness in pursuing the goals of the administration and urged support for the incoming President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
He appreciated the ministers for working closely together, despite many odds and challenges.
“I am proud to say we gave our best’’.
“For those of us that will not directly be in the next government, I know I am one of such, I ask that we continue to provide our support, in whatever way we can, if called upon by our great party, All Progressives Congress (APC) that gave us the platform to stand and we must continue to support it in every way we can.
“I look forward to a great many of you, disproving that Daura has not become too distant because I am no longer Mr President. I wish all of us the best and hope to hear good news whenever any of our names are mentioned,” he said.
In his speech, the outgoing Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, told the President that appointing a Minister of State is an aberration.
Keyamo, who thanked President Buhari for enriching his CV with the appointment, noted that some other Ministers of State have been grumbling and unable to speak out boldly.
He said it was difficult to assess the individual performances of the Ministers of State since their discretion was shackled under the discretion of the Ministers, as any original ideas developed by a Minister of State were subject to clearance by another colleague in cabinet before they could sail through for consideration by FEC.
He said: “Mr. President, you first appointed me as Minister of State in the Ministry of 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 200 million Nigerians, to be nominated and subsequently appointed to serve as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. My CV 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 to participate weekly in decision-making for my country in the last four years, it has been like a fairy tale.
“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 optimise 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.
“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. 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.
“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. 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.”
He argued that the unconstitutional development has led to having ministers that are idle or redundant.
IN another development, with less than four days to the handover, President Buhari has been urged to stop the process for the appointment of a new Auditor General for the Federation (AuGF).
The convener of Defenders of Constitutional Democracy (DCD), Aliyu Abdullahi, argued that it would be in the best interest of the country to allow the incoming administration to handle the process.
The rights group justified their position, arguing that it was aimed at checkmating clandestine plans by some elements in the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Civil Service Commission, to sideline senior directors and appoint a junior officer as the AuGF.
In a statement, the group noted: “Recall that the process began in August 2022 with seven directors shortlisted and the screening done but along the line, the order of seniority was altered in the Office of the Head of Service. Surprisingly, the process was abandoned for unknown reasons and a fresh one was initiated in March 2023, where the most senior directors were excluded.”
Meanwhile, despite a recent indictment of the Malami-led Justice ministry over inability to render disbursement details of N10.4 billion judgment debt by the Senate committee on Public Accounts, President Buhari, yesterday, sent a request to the Senate for approval of payment of the controversial debts in the sum of $566,754,584.31, £98,526,012.00, and N226 billion.
The Senate had indicted the Ministry of Justice over its inability to render details on how N10.4 billion judgment debt was disbursed to the beneficiaries. The Federal Government, through the issuance of promissory notes, owed the monies.
Buhari’s letter of request was read at plenary by Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday.
However, legal icon and founder of the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), has cautioned the National Assembly against approving any fresh loan facilities to the outgoing government of President Buhari.
The President had recently written to the Senate to seek its approval for a $800 million loan to finance the National Social Safety Network Programme of the government.
Reacting to the development yesterday at the Aare Afe Babalola 12th Annual Public Lecture organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ado Ekiti branch, Babalola expressed disbelief that President Buhari could be seeking a fresh loan in a country with “undeclared bankruptcy”.
The legal icon said he was not expecting the National Assembly to accede to such a request a few days to the end of the tenure of the administration.
“I do not expect the parliament to accede to that request. How can you be an undeclared bankrupt country and yet be borrowing more money? I do not think that any right thinking person will give us a loan with trillions of Naira debt. I believe and sincerely hope that the National Assembly will not approve it.
“The type of elections being held in the country cannot produce the right people. If we had the right people in the National Assembly they would have instantly turned down the request of President Buhari to borrow $800 million. That is why I am an advocate of a new constitution and I want you (NBA) to join me in that crusade.”