As the federal government sets to implement the Stephen Oronsaye Report on merger of Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs), some senior lawyers have explained that only those not set up with the constitution would require legislation to merge.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, had last week disclosed that President Buhari had approved the implementation of the report.
The Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of MDAs, now commonly referred to as the Oronsaye Committee, was set up by the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Key recommendation of the committee was a reduction in the number of statutory agencies from 263 to 161.
Speaking to our correspondent, Etigwe Uwa (SAN) said only ministries like the Federal Ministry of Justice and Office of Attorney General of the Federation, which are created by the constitution, can be merged.
He added that those created by Acts of the National Assembly would require enabling legislation to merge.
“In a nutshell, for ministries not created by the constitution or statute they can be merged by the president without the necessity of a law being passed by the National Assembly but for agencies created by statute, enabling laws have to be passed by the National Assembly before they can be merged,” he said.
Also, Tawo Tawo (SAN) said the directive of the president to the SGF and HOSF would include amendment or repeal of the applicable and relevant laws establishing the MDAs, on whether to scrap or merge them.
He noted that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, as the chief law officer of the federation, is empowered to advise the federal government on the legal requirement for the exercise.
“And that is the responsibility of the National Assembly. The merger of the MDAs will only be lawful and effectual with the enactment of laws to that effect,” he said.
However, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) said the president, as the Chief Executive, has the requisite powers to use administrative steps for the betterment of the country.
He added that what is important is to ensure the workability of the directive at the policy and administrative level before any requisite legislative interventions can be introduced.
“At the initial stage, the Public Service Rules and related enactments could still be useful for the purposes of experimentation.
“If it requires passage of law to avoid the steps being illegal, then recourse could be had to the National Assembly,” he stated.
A member representing Darazo/Ganjuwa federal constituency, Mansur Manu Soro, responded through an SMS saying: “The president is expected to send an executive bill in this regard.”
Also speaking, Solomon Maren (PDP, Plateau) said the report has to be approved at the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
“It will go to the Federal Executive Council first and get approval before it will come to us. They don’t have to amend the laws immediately because the merged organisations will use a combination of laws before they are harmonised,” he said.