Ten Days to Deadline: Shape of Likely Innovations in Tinubu’s Cabinet

Ten Days to Deadline: Shape of Likely Innovations in Tinubu’s Cabinet

By the Nigerian constitution (amended) President Tinubu is required to unveil his cabinet -ministers not later than 60 days after taking his oath of office. He took that oath on May 29 and his sixty days started counting since that day. Today marks his 50th day in office, meaning he will be expected to transmit

By the Nigerian constitution (amended) President Tinubu is required to unveil his cabinet -ministers not later than 60 days after taking his oath of office. He took that oath on May 29 and his sixty days started counting since that day. Today marks his 50th day in office, meaning he will be expected to transmit the list of his preferred appointees to the Senate for confirmation any moment from now. He has been second guessed that the list may get to the Senate, Thursday this week.

This deadline albeit innovation, was one of the last amendments (fifth alteration) to the constitution assented to by President Buhari early this year. It requires the president and governors to submit the names of persons nominated as ministers or commissioners within sixty days of taking the oath of office for confirmation by the Senate or State House of Assembly as the case may be.

Hitherto, there was no time limit and it would be recalled that President Buhari did not constitute his cabinet in his first time until he was six months in office. The situation was even worse in some states like Osun when for his first one year in office, Governor Rauf Aregbesola did not constitute his State Executive Council. Two excuses were advanced: One was that the House of Assembly was dominated by opposition PDP, (he was then of the Action Congress) and may be difficult to pass his list through easily. Two, was the savings he was able to make to executive some projects without the wages and running costs of having commissioners. All that is in the past.

For President Tinubu, it is believed that preparatory work towards meeting the deadline have been concluded and that the President may have forwarded the names of his nominees to the Department of State Security (DSS) and the anti-corruption agencies notably the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for security screening, preceding his formal submission to Senate for screening and confirmation, most likely anytime this week.

Will There Still be Minister of State?

Going by previous experiences, the number of ministers may not likely be less than 42 because the constitution prescribes appointment of at least one minister per state, there are 36 states in Nigeria. Past Presidents have used their prerogative to appoint additional six at the rate of one per geopolitical zone. Though the posture of the Tinubu’s government is not to have a bloated cabinet, it is doubtful if he would deviate from the past by not adding his choices from the six geopolitical zones.

But, the bigger challenge for Tinubu lies in how to correct the “illegality” of the past. In a farewell memo by Barr Festus Keyamo to the Buhari’s cabinet on its eve of departure, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria raised issue on appointment of minister of state, pointing out its unconstitutionality. He argued that it has inadvertently created superiority and inferiority complex in the cabinet. He argued that no state is inferior to another in the cabinet but a situation whereby some states are given ministers of state and made to play second fiddle to a full Minister from another was not desirable and negates the spirit and letter of the constitution that says each state shall have a Minister.

As an advocate of constitutional democracy, it is believed that President Tinubu may take the issues raised by Festus Keyamo and may therefore want to eliminate the dichotomy between the Minister and Minister of state. The government may likely innovate by splitting several ministries to align with his policy direction and to accommodate more nominees as full ministers and not ministers of state. There will likely be fewer ministers of state, if any.

An Outlook of the Demerging of Ministries

Consequently, the government may embark on the demerging of some existing ministries in order to allow for appointees to focus and take responsibility. According to informed sources, some of the ministries that may be split include the current Ministry of Works and Housing which may be broken into two namely, Ministry of Works; focusing on federal roads and highways and Ministry of Housing which may be restructured and heavily financed to jump-start economic growth.

Also, the Ministry of Transportation may be divided into – Ministry of Railways & Rail Transport and Ministry of Waterways & Marine Transportation, which will be in charge of ports, navigable rivers. The burden of Roads Transportation may be removed from this ministry and taken to Works Ministry

The Ministry of Education may be divided into Ministry of Basic & Special Education
and the Ministry of Tertiary and Advanced Education. While the Ministry of Information, Culture and Orientation may be divided into two or three. Essentially, activities of the Ministry of information may be given to the President’s Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Mr. Dele Alake.

The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning may be decentralized to give birth to the Ministry of Finance and Budget while a new fledged Ministry of National Planning that may accommodate Bureau of Statistics and National Population Commission as parastatals may emerge. It is being speculated that the President’s Special Adviser on Fiscal Policy, Mr. Wale Edun may be drafted to take over the role of one of the ministries but another source said a serving Senator from Lagos state is slated to take charge of the Ministry of Finance and Budget.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry may be divided too such that Commerce may move to the Ministry of Trade and Investment while industry portfolio moves to a new Ministry of Employment and Industry. The same fate may befall the Ministry of Petroleum Resources which may be restructured to accommodate other solid resources such as Bitumen and Tar sand. Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development may split into two allowing Agric to stand alone in view of the government’s declaration of emergency in the agric sector and the reintroduction of commodity boards across the country.

As desirable as the demerging of ministries could be, they come with the potential of adding costs to governance. New Permanent Secretaries and Directors may have to be appointed for the new ministries though they could share assets such as office spaces and vehicles.

But more importantly, the bloating of ministries could make a nonsense of the Orosanye report which had earlier recommended the scrapping of parastatals and reduction in the number of ministries through creative mergers. It would appear President Tinubu is standing between the devil and the blue sea. Nevertheless, Nigerians are waiting for President Tinubu to name his team which would give an indication of what to expect from his government.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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