11:24 pm
22 October 2016

Nigeria: Why Buhari Should Not Be Petroleum Minister

By Ademola Orunbon

“The President of Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not, during his tenure in office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever”- Section 138, constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. Pursuant to the above quoted Section, the President is expressly, definitively and unambiguously disallowed from holding any other executive position throughout the duration of his presidency.

As has become a customary, albeit most offensive, feature of presidency, Muhammadu Buhari chose to formally inform his fellow citizens of his ill-advised intention to retain the coveted Petroleum Resources Ministerial portfolio while on foreign land, precisely during his recent visit to New York, in the United States of America.

Media sources have quoted the President’s Spokeperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, as citing the desire to personally superintend the restructuring of the corruption-infested petroleum industry, as the rationale for Buhari’s controversial decision.

The unstated precedence that may have encouraged President Buhari to do likewise, is the fact that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, also held on to the office of Petroleum Resources Minister throughout the latter’s tenure, from 1999 to 2007, in violation of Section 138 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

As we wait for the processing and screening of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Ministerial Nominess both the first batch and second batch by the Senate, in pursuant to Section 147(2) of the Constitution of the Feferal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, it is pertinent/important to raise a clear alarm not only about on imminent infraction, but indeed to shed more light on an ongoing illegality being perpeterated by the President for reserving the juicy position of Petroleum Minister for himself in contravention of the Section 138 of the Nigerian Consitution of 1999.

Since his assumption of office on May 29th 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has been acting and exercising the substantive authority of the Minister of Petroleum Resources; and is likely to continue to do so till the very hour of the publication of this piece. Perhaps he may even continue to do so thereafter if he is not advised to the contrary.

Based on the foregoing, it is indisputable that Muhammadu Buhari is in ongoing violation of Section 138 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as the Nigerian believes that he is the law abiding citizen and corrupt free leader in Nigeria.

It is possible that former President Olusegun Obasanjo and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari may have relied, or may be relying on the seemingly broad power of the office of the President, pursuant to Section 5(1)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 which states;

“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation shall be vested on the President and may subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of law made by the National Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or officers in the public service of the Federation”.

However, I believe it is settled in law that where certain provisions of any grundnorm are ambiguous on a particular subject matter, the existence of any prohibitive provision effectively circumscribes and supersedes every other section which may suggest otherwise.

This means that the express prohibition provision as slated in Section 138 of the Constitution if the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 effectively precludes President Buhari from appointing himself Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources and, therefore, also not allows/disallows him from exercising the substantive power and authority of the referred executive office.

Accordingly, the widely reported speculation that the President is likely to nominate Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as the Minister of state, Petroleum Resources, should also be reviewed and not be allowed to take place.

Going ahead with this plan is most likely to violate certain provisions of the Nigerian Petroleum Act of 1969 which clearly stated the functions of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, the Board of NNPC, the GMD of NNPC and other agencies.

Since President Buhari has an established reputation as a dogged advocate for the rule of law, I hereby invite other more learned persons and constitutional authorities to weigh in on this very important subject matter, in order to prevent the President from perpetrating a constitutional breach which, as of today has become a reference point, and is ongoing.

Nobody can convince me that in a Country of ours (Nigeria) that boasts of many leading authorities in Petroleum Resources Engineering and Administration, President Muhammadu Buhari is unable to find any competent and credible person to champion the much anticipated reforms in the petroleum industry.

Like millions of Nigerians and many well-meaning persons all over Africa and the World at large, I continue to pray that may God almighty grant President Muhammmadu Buhari and his incoming cabinet the grace and wisdom to enable them steer this nation aright. He needs our continued fervent prayers, patience, wisdom, knowledge and understanding.