The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has described the creation of the office of minister of state as a constitutional aberration.
Speaking Wednesday at the valedictory Federal Executive Council session chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, he said some of Buhari’s ministers of state grumbled and were unable to be bold and speak out.
He said it was difficult to assess the individual performances of the ministers of state since their discretion was shackled under the discretion of substantive ministers as any original ideas developed by a minister of state are subject to clearance by another colleague in cabinet before they can sail through for consideration by the council.
“What I’m about to say, therefore, is not and should not be construed as an indication of ingratitude. Far from it. What I’m 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.
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“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 haven’t 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,” Keyamo stressed.
He said though many ministerial retreats had been held to resolve conflicts between ministers and ministers of state, the problems persisted.
“Mr. President, unknown to many successive presidents and the general public, these conflicts gravely affect the optimal performance of governments.
“What is the way forward? Obviously, the argument that two ministers are cramped into some ministries in order not to unnecessarily proliferate ministries and therefore save government’s money is no longer tenable. “This is because government does not need any extra infrastructure or more money to maintain all senior 36 ministers or even a bit more appointed as is now the custom.
“This is because the present ministers and ministers of state have their separate offices, cars, security personnel and personal aides. So, what is the point?,” he asked.
Addressing reporters after the valedictory session, the Minister of State, FCT, Ramatu Aliyu, described the office as a limiting factor on the capacity of ministers of state.
She said, “If you’re appointed, if you serve your state, if you underwent the same training, you attend the same FEC representing your people. Why then is your voice hinged upon another minister’s voice? Why is lack of planning on another minister’s part an emergency on yours? Why is the label ineptitude now the label you’ll carry if he should fail?
“All these should be looked into by the next administration to put the country in the good path of trajectory. Let me tell you this, if and only if, and that is the little minus I saw in this administration, all ministers were allowed to perform, the performances of the government and the achievement of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, I’ll beat my chest they cannot be equaled.
“But if one plus one becomes one, then there’s an issue. Why then have a minister of state whose capacity, no matter what’s brought forth, will be weighed and will be debated upon, will be decided to go or not go to FEC by a colleague? So that does not do justice to the appointment, it doesn’t do justice to the people represented, it does not even do justice to the persons presenting themselves.”