I read a piece credited to Mr Festus Keyamo SAN over his call to abolish the “Minister of State” portfolio.
To start with, I want to believe that Festus Keyamo position was borne out of the experience he faced as being seen as a subordinate to a fellow Minister – just like every other ministers of state. If so be the case, I empathize with him but I don’t think his call was done in good faith. If he was sincere, he had a whole 8 years to call the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari but didn’t do so because of reasons best known to him.
Now to the main issue, it is my humble opinion that Festus Keyamo erred for labeling the position of “Minister of State” a constitutional aberration. He perhaps did not realise that the Minister and the Minister of State are equal Ministers but with different responsibilities assigned to each of them by the President – who is the appointer.
The Constitution in Sections 147 and 148 (as amended) that deals with the appointment of ministers only mandated the President to at least appoint a minister from each state, it never inferred that the responsibilities of each ministers shall be of equal status.
When President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office and assigned some ministers to ‘ministers of state’, he clearly defined the responsibilities of both the ‘Senior’ ministers and the Junior ministers. For instance, while the Minister of Education was assigned to Tertiary Education, the minister of state for education was responsible for primary/secondary education – this tradition was followed by his successors.
Mr Hadi Sirika, during the first term of President Buhari was a junior minister in the ministry of transportation, however, the President clearly assigned Aviation responsibilities to him. He only became a senior minister at the formation of Buhari’s new cabinet in 2019.
Therefore, when a minister of state feels that he is made redundant in the ministry (like in the case of Keyamo), the blame should be the president that didn’t clearly define his responsibilities in the ministry and not the practice itself.
The call for a 36/42 ministries to accommodate each ministers will only amount to waste of scarce resources – as each ministry will need office building, permanent secretary, directors etc. Whereas in the case of Minister/minister of state, one building and permanent secretary will serve the needs of the two ministers.
Conclusively, whether one is named a minister or minister of state, the provisions of Sections 147 & 148 of the CFRN (as amended) are not breached as both portfolio are equal members at the Federal Executive Council with the occupants representing their respective States but with different posting/portfolio