Image: The author, Emmanuel Onwubiko
Firstly, I assert and affirm my strong disapproval of the recent public statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari that ministers are mere noise makers and that civil servants in the government do all the work. My disapproval of this inaccurate and fallacious assertion credited to President Muhammadu Buhari on the status of Ministers is both constitutional and empirical.
Constitutionally, there is a legal recognition of the job specification for qualified Nigerian professionals and technocrats to be so picked by the President of the Federal Republic even as the Supreme law states in an unambiguous fashion that there would be at least a minister from each of the 36 States that constitute the Nigerian Federation. Section 147 (1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended) provides as follows: “There SHALL be such office of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President.”
In subsection 5 of section 147 the law establishes that no Nigerian is qualified for appointment as a minister unless he is qualified for election as a Member of the Federal House of Representatives. This goes to show that there is no provision in the constitution for Mr President to appoint ‘noise makers’ as Federal Executive Council members in the Nigerian Federation. From the point of view of empirical evidence the job prescriptions of a minister is so technical and complex that it’s practically impossible and illegal for a lousy person such that can be described as a noise maker to so occupy the public office of the minister of the Federation of Nigeria.
How can anybody dismiss a medical doctor as a noise maker nor a Senior Lawyer as such if the criteria for making someone to assume those positions of minister of Health or Attorney General of the Federation is such that the person ought to have the requisite technical and professional competences before he/she is presumed qualified for appointment as a Federal minister in Nigeria.
Now to the reason for this open letter which is meant to call for the public placement of media advertisements inviting qualified Nigerians to apply to fill up the vacancies of the public offices of the ministers in the Nigerian Federation.
Consequently, my dear readers permit me to write Senate President of Nigeria this open letter with a deep sense of urgency because of our conviction that for far too long the process and bureaucratic mechanisms leading to the appointment of Nigerians to serve on the Executive Council of the Federation otherwise known as Federal Executive Council have been subjected to the whims and caprices of a single individual because of the sole appointing authority grated the President by virtue of relevant section of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended ) aforementioned.
Sir, we are disappointed with the slow process and the inexplicable opaqueness that characterized the ongoing snail’s speed and annoyingly piecemeal appointment mode adopted by the Nigerian President. How does a country of well over 30 million well educated and widely travelled population and the over 140 million other Citizens with high native intellect just sit by and moped in unpardonable helplessness as one man held all of us to ransom for four clear months before announcing only an incomplete list of cabinet level members of the Executive Arm of Government?
This open letter which is meant to call for the public
placement of media advertisements inviting qualified
Nigerians to apply to fill up the vacancies of public
offices of the ministers in the Nigerian Federation
This lethargy and docility of all and sundry needs institutional surgical overhaul, so Nigeria can practice REAL CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY and for us to arrest the steady decline of respect to the clear provisions of the law.
As one way out, we are proposing the immediate passage of a legislation stipulating in clear language the time line within which an elected President can nominate and send the names of prospective members of the Federal Cabinet to the National Assembly and specifically to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Secondly, in making these appointments may it be legislated that competent professionals with relevant expert knowledge of the thematic mandates of the Federal Ministries in operation to be invited to apply within a specified period of time so a team of independent interviewers appointed by the President to conduct transparent aptitudes test the results of which would be passed on to Mr. President and at least three pre-qualified candidates for office of minister from each state of the Federation be interviewed after which the best candidate carries the day if the successful person passes the other test of integrity and credibility to be done by select team of security experts drawn from the Secret Police and the office of Inspector General of Police.
Sir, we propose that during the screening proper by the Senate Nigerians are invited to send affirmation of interest to attend the public hearing after which random draws are simultaneously conducted by Senators in their Constituencies to select two representatives (male/female) who should attend the Senate ministerial screening at their individual cost during which time they can as well be invited to submit either an objection or approval of those ministerial candidates. The witnesses from the respective States whereby these nominees hail from should be availed copies of the assets declarations tendered by the nominees to the Code of Conduct Bureau so they can object or give no such objection.
The Constitutional provisions on declaration of assets should be amended to make it compulsory for assets declaration forms filed by prospective political office holders are widely publicized and gazette for purposes of crosschecking to minimize incidence of corruption. It’s a notorious fact that cabinet ministers under all previous dispensations have always fallen short of passing a valid credibility examination.
Sir we also urge that the police be compelled to build, maintain and administer a national crime data bank to store information on all those Nigerians that have had crime related cases so the Country is saved from letting a convicted fraudster to procure public office such as those of members of the Federal Cabinet.
We deemed it appropriate to do this open letter because from our experience with your administrative officials in the Office of Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria it is clear that too many bureaucratic bottlenecks and systemic corruption may not let you see our letter but since this would become a public material in no time we hope that both you and the rest of the Senators will do the needful to introduce radical transformation in the modus operandi applicable in appointment of Ministers for Nigeria.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human rights Writers association of Nigeria and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com,www.rightsassociationngr.com, www.huriwa.org.