Govt not under legal obligation to appoint 37 ministers same time, says Keyamo
According to a statement by the lawyer, the idea that the president must appoint 37 federal ministers to represent the federal character is misinterpreted and misconstrued.
He said: “the long-held notion in Nigeria that the President is under an obligation to appoint at least 37 ministers into his cabinet is not correct after all – at least by a holistic appreciation of the spirit and letters of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“This notion has been taken for granted that no one has bothered to read the provisions of the Constitution over and over again. And of course, since it suits the politicians to promote this notion, none of them has ever dared to suggest otherwise. But, with the greatest sense of patriotism, I submit that the president can, indeed, appoint far less than 37 ministers and have a very lean cabinet.”
Keyamo explained that the idea emanated from section 147(1), (2), (3) and section 302 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which states as follows: There shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President; 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; Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(3) of the 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.
“A cursory reading of the above section will lead to a quick conclusion that since we have 36 States of the Federation, a minister from each State would naturally mean that the President must appoint at least 36 ministers from the States. And if you add the minister for the FCT that section 302 imposes on the President to appoint, then the conclusion would naturally be to have at least 37 ministers of the Federation.
However, I respectfully submit that this long-held notion is built on a faulty premise, a constitutional misunderstanding and a restrictive interpretation of section 147 as quoted above.
“Firstly, the Constitution does not stipulate the time-frame within which the President shall appoint ministers once he assumes office. If that is accepted then it means the President has the whole of the four-year tenure at his disposal to fulfill the constitutional provision of appointing a minister each from each State of the Federation.
“Secondly, the Constitution does not state that the ministers so appointed have a fixed term of office. In other words, they are appointed and removed at the pleasure of the president. They are not bound to spend four years in office with the President.
“Thirdly, the Constitution does not state that all the ministers from all the 36 States and the FCT must be appointed at the same time. To buttress this point, most presidents in the past have always sent list of ministers in batches to the Senate for approval and nobody has raised an eye brow about that.