Keyamo Blasts Buhari for Appointing Him as Minister of State, Calls it a Constitutional Aberration
The outgoing Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, has expressed his dissatisfaction with the concept or designation of “Minister of State” in the federal cabinet.
Keyamo made this known on Wednesday at the valedictory session presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari to mark the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) under his administration.
Keyamo, who thanked Buhari for enriching his curriculum vitae through the appointment, said he was unable to perform optimally as a minister of state because his discretion was limited by that of the senior minister.
He said: “Mr President, you first appointed me as Minister of State in the Ministry 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 two hundred million Nigerians, to be nominated and subsequently appointed to serve as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. My curriculum vitae has been greatly enhanced – forever.
“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 optimize 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.”
He argued that the constitution did not provide for any distinction between ministers and ministers of state and that they all took the same oath of office.
He said: “As a private citizen, I am on record to have gone to court a number of times to challenge unconstitutional acts of governments for the sake of advancing our constitutional democracy, so it will be out of character for me to have gone through government and be carried away by the pomp of public office and forget my role as a member of the inner bar and my self-imposed role over the years as a crusader for democracy and constitutionalism.”
He cited sections 147 and 148 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which deal with the appointments and responsibilities of ministers and said there was no provision for ministers of state.
He said: “Simply put, it is akin to the President assigning responsibilities to the office of the Vice-President and re-designating that office as “Deputy President” under our present Constitution. That is clearly impossible. Why then should that of the Ministers be different?’’
He suggested that future governments should either amend the constitution to accommodate ministers of state or appoint only ministers without any subordination.
He said: “Some may want to justify this by saying the President is given the discretion by the Constitution to assign whatever responsibility(ies) he likes to Ministers. Yes, I concede Mr President can do that, but not by a designation different from that prescribed by the Constitution.”