President cum Petroleum Resources Minister : Justifying Illegality
By Norrison Quakers SAN
ARE we seeing the eight wonders of the world in our polity? Admittedly, no one is left in doubt about President Muhammadu Buhari’s military credentials, being a retired Major General of the Nigerian Army. However, there is no gainsaying that the mandate of a democratically elected President, the Chief Executive of the Federation as prescribed by Section 130 CFRN 1999 (As Amended) is to foster democratic governance.
Though, the Senate recently passed a Bill for an Act stating that henceforth, inauguration of the President and Vice-President of Nigeria will be holding at the National Assembly Complex, but with no iota of pessimism, this may amount to side tracking in the face of the situation we are confronted with where the supposedly hallowed oath of office, the hallmark of same inauguration ceremony seems strictly adhered to in breach simpliciter.
Sour taste in the mouth
The face-off between the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and the head of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, over the award of $25 billion contracts without following due process leaves a sour taste in the mouth of already hungry Nigerians.
Likewise is the indelible after-birth mark of the present administration, being the revelation of the reinstatement and posting of Alhaji Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina, the suspect who had abandoned his duty post as an Assistant Director to the position of a Director with all benefits attached contrary to the civil service rule.
The conjoined siamese twins of this genetically is the leaked memo of Mrs. Winifred E. Oyo-Ita OON, MNI, the Head of Civil Service, both, ultimately robbing the populace of their taste buds, considering the trust reposed in the current administration heralded as the emergence of The New Man.
Admittedly, the press, as elevated by Section 22 CFRN 1999 (As Amended) seems the last resort to getting the hunter’s best friend cum pet, to heed the whistle of the master, in view of the fact that the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, is yet to address the many legal shortfalls of the present administration and advise the Presidency accordingly as mandated by Section 150(1)CFRN 1999 (As Amended) as the Chief Law Officer of the Federationeven after seemingly resolving that pertaining to his office, being the impasse with the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu.
In the real sense of it, the Presidency should not wait for the Judiciary to always step in before the voice of reason prevails in resolving matters such as the repugnancy of having the President of Nigeria double as the Minister of Petroleum Resources in view of the unambiguous provisions of the law hereunder expounded in extensio. The fons et origo of other laws in our fatherland, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria1999 (As Amended),precisely Section 147(1), in recognizing the federal character principle and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups,makes it mandatory that any appointment of a Minister of the Government of the Federation by the President shall take into cognizance this principle and the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State.
The Seventh Schedule to the Constitution went on to prescribe differentOath of Allegiance and the oath of office of various public office holders which by Section 140(1) is a condition precedent to perform the functions required of an occupant of the coveted office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Further, Section 147(4), recognizing the distinctiveness of the office of the Minister of the Government of the Federation makes it mandatory that where a member of the National Assembly or of a House of Assembly is appointed as Minister of the Government of the Federation, he shall be deemed to have resigned such membershipon his taking the oath of office as Minister as required by Section 149.
Remarkably, Section 138 CFRN 1999 (As Amended) is apt. It provides that the President shall not, during his tenure of office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever.
Moving on to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Act, Section 1(2) & (3) of same provides that the affairs of the Corporation is to be conducted by a Board of Directors of the Corporation,comprising a Chairman who shall bea Minister in the Government of the Federation to be known and styled as the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
Of note, the office of ‘Minister of Petroleum Resources’ referred to therein differs from the office occupied by Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, being the Minister of State simpliciter.
Succinctly, the status of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria doubling as the Minister of Petroleum Resources beco mes an aberration upon a conjunctive reading of the aforestated provisions alongside Section 147(2) of CFRN 1999 (As Amended) providing that 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. Some germane questions that come to mind are: Can an appointing authority become the appointee?
Can the President’s self-appointment as Minister of Petroleum Resources be valid even after self-confirmation without the Senate’s rubber stamp upon being notified of such an appointment? Does Section 138 of CFRN 1999 (As Amended) disqualify the President of Nigeria from holding any other executive office or paid employment such as the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources?
Of note, Section 6 (c) of the NNPC Act, vests the Board of the NNPC with the exclusive power to enter into contracts or partnerships with any company, firm or person which in the opinion of the Corporation will facilitate the discharge of the duties of same under this Act.
Further, the NNPC Act in Part A of its Fifth Schedule requires that not only is the Board required to meet not less than four times in each year, all meetings of same shall ordinarily be presided over by the Chairman.
Power of delegation
The question that begs for answer is- How is NNPC expected to function with a vacuum created by President Muhammadu Buhari, holding the office of Minister of Petroleum Resources without confirmation by the Senate?
Happily, the Courts have over the years emphasized that in a constitutional democracy as ours, cat walking impunity cannot be overlooked regardless of whose ox is gored.
While the President is desirous of spearheading national reforms, the power of delegation cannot be ruled out in view of the prevalent affront against the Constitution which he swore to uphold by virtue of his oath of office. Need I also reiterate that the one whose book carries more silence, is the one who has more space left in it for life to write down its secrets?
The Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, preoccupied with numerous duties definitely needs a clear book! The dignity of that office I dare say is more of what is moral, proper, and ultimately constitutional!
- Norrison Quakers SAN is the principal partner of Jireh & Greys Attorneys, Lagos
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