Keyamo wants ‘Minister of State’ portfolio scrapped, says it’s unconstitutional

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Festus Keyamo, the minister of state for labour and employment, has urged the federal government to take into consideration creating separate ministers to manage various portfolios, claiming the position of “minister of state” is an anomaly under the Constitution.

Keyamo made this call on Wednesday during his farewell speech at the valedictory session at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Minister said that many of the people assigned to the position of “Minister of State” aren’t really doing their jobs in that capacity.

He pointed out that many people assigned to these posts by succeeding administrations have repeatedly refrained from speaking out due to respect for the Presidents who nominated them.

The spokesman for the disbanded Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council noted that the schedules of duties leave so many gaping holes that frequently set ministers of state against one another while noting that he doesn’t want to be perceived as an ingrate.

“The Schedules of Duties of Ministers and Ministers of State that intend to cure some of these anomalies hardly help the issues. Firstly, the Schedules of Duties are observed more in breach by the Permanent Secretaries and Directors who really cannot be expected to serve two masters.

“And in any case, many of the roles of both Ministers are so ambiguous that the bureaucrats would always interpret them to satisfy the ones they see as the “Senior Ministers” or “main Ministers” for fear of being persecuted by them,” the Minister explained.

Keyamo claimed that the practise first appeared in the First Republic, where it was employed to create the appearance of a “Government of National Unity” even though the opposition figures who were coopted into government received no “real power” at all.

Read Also: BLINKEN: You, your supporters have overrated your ‘noise and tantrums’, Keyamo tells Obi

He also asserted that the main objective of making such opposition figures Ministers of State was to keep them under the control of the Ministers of the ruling Party.

He went on to say that the practise has endured and become the standard over time, even with reference to ministers from the same ruling party.

“In fact, one political absurdity that has emerged from this is that some Ministers of State won more votes from their States for the party in power than the “main Minister. As a result, many Ministers of State are largely redundant, with many going to the office for symbolic purpose and just to while away the time. Files are passed to them to treat only at the discretion of the other Minister and the Permanent Secretary. Yet, the Ministers of State will receive either praise or condemnation for the successes or failures of such Ministries.

“In addition, the provision that “Ministers of State” cannot present Memos in Council, except with the permission of the Minister, is another anomaly. It means the discretion of the Minister of State is subsumed in the discretion of the Minister, yet both of them represent different States in Cabinet. It also follows that it would be difficult to assess the individual performances of the Ministers of State since their discretion is shackled under the discretion of the Ministers. 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 Council. The drafters of our Constitution obviously did not intend this.

“In my case, whilst the schedule of my colleague had to do more with Labour and Productivity, mine had to do more with Employment. The Directorates in my Ministry that were under my office would then be fully under the Minister of Employment, without any double loyalty to the Minister of Labour and Productivity. We can also have a Minister of Trade and another Minister of Investment. We can have a Minister of Education (Tertiary) and another Minister of Education (Primary and Secondary); we can have a Minister of Mines and another Minister of Steel; we can have a Minister of Works and another Minister of Housing and so on.

“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 the present Ministers and Ministers of State have their separate offices, cars, security personnel and personal aides. So, what is the point?

“Finally, I want to place it on record again that Mr. President gave me maximum support as his Minister to function optimally. This treatise is not a personal complaint. This is just a respectful recommendation for record purposes and for the sake of posterity. It is also intended to correct an anomaly that has existed for ages.”

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