President Muhammadu Buhari is set to appoint only 25 ministers to serve his government. This is authoritative.
Sources within his administration told NigerianPilot Sunday yesterday that the decision is in line with the new administration’s policy of cost reduction in view of the dwindling federally collectible revenue accruing to the federation.
It is also part of the administration’s fight against corruption.
This paper further gathered that the action would be used to block all observed leaks in the system including payment to ghost workers and award of fictitious contracts.
Sequel to this, would be the scrapping of some “non-essential” ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs and merging them with more viable ones as well as staff reduction in line with the recommendations of the committee on the restructuring of the federal civil service which submitted its report to the last administration.
The committee made wide reaching recommendations on the reform of the civil service of the federation, part of which was scrapping and/or merging of some MDAs whose functions overlap each other to cut down on cost of governance and have a compact workforce.
However, the Jonathan administration did not implement the report before it left office last month end.
Buhari’s planned action is a clear departure from what previous administrations did.
On the average, former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan had 42 ministers in their cabinets. The ministers were drawn from all the states and six geopolitical zones of the country.
The ministers were made up of principal ministers and ministers of state in charge of key ministries such as Finance, Education, Federal Capital Territory, Agriculture, Health, Power, Niger Delta Affairs, and Foreign affairs respectively.
The 1999 Constitution (amended) provides for the appointment of at least one minister from each state of the federation and the FCT, at the federal cabinet.
Specifically, section 147 (1) states as follows: There shall be such office 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.
Similarly, section 14(3) under chapter 11: ”Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy’ provides that ‘the composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote nation unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”
Analysts said the constitutional provision is to ensure equal representation at the highest policy making and implementation organ of the federal government.
However, with the plan by Buhari to appoint only 25 ministers, the implication is that some states would not be represented at the cabinet.
“Apart from running contrary to the constitution, it is also against the principle of federal character,” said a political scientist who preferred to remain anonymous.
But speaking in defence of Buhari, a former Minister of Education and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Professor Chinwe Obaji, said that there is nothing wrong with the decision if Buhari decides to carry it out.
According to her, “Buhari’s decision to reduce the number of ministers is in line with ongoing economic meltdown in the country and the world generally. Let me tell you, the constitution did not say a President must have 36 ministers drawn from each of the states at the same time. Buhari can appoint 25 ministers now and later, drop some and replace them with ministers from other states. What matters most is that before the end of his tenure, all the states and FCT would have had representatives in his cabinet.
“Again, considering the downturn in the economy and Buhari’s resolve to tackle corruption and reduce cost of governance in Nigeria, reducing the number of ministers would mean reducing the number of ministries, departments and agencies and the cost of running those MDAs, whose overhead alone run into billions.
“Overall, I think what Buhari wants to do is commendable and should be appreciated by all Nigerians,” she further explained.