YES! The President Can! By Johannes Wojuola
Nigeria cannot joke with this profound sector. On the other side, it is of significance to note the fact that the Petroleum sector accounts for over 60% of our revenue leakages.
It is lucent that the Nigerian Petroleum sector has been bereft of prudence and accountability. President Buhari’s consequent decision to put a special eye on this sector by personally overseeing the Ministry of Petroleum is in order.
I would not pretend or shelve beneath the carpet the moral and legal argots flying here and there giving credence to or castigating Mr. President’s decision.
It is important that I state here that, in fact, after President Buhari’s expertise in the Military sector, the next sector where the President is most proficient is in the Petroleum sector. Under Gen. Obasanjo’s military regime, Buhari served as the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum Resources – a similitude of what we have today as the Minister of Petroleum – from March 1976 to June 1978. He also helped in the establishment of the NNPC – where he was the Chairman in 1978 – and the Kaduna, New Port Harcourt and Warri refinery. He also supervised the laying of 3,000km of pipelines around Nigeria. He is credited for having laid the foundation for what we have as the Petrochemical Industry today.
President Buhari would bring his vast experience from the intimate working relationship he has had with the Petroleum sector’s management. And to boot, he would be bringing in his known virtues of integrity, prudence, honesty and honour to see to an effective management of this sector.
Would the President get any emoluments for the role? Obviously not. We must note that the President is the head of Nigeria’s executive and making sure this sector works is part and parcel of the job of the President. This is so whether there is a Minister or not.
I have seen a few hawk the simplistic argument that every Ministry must have a Minister, and even going to the length of supporting their point with the constitutional provision of Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. That is a wrong notion to hold. Whereas the proposition of this Section of the Constitution is such that the President must appoint Ministers who must be one from each State of the Federation – at least 36 Ministers – it is not in any effect providing to impel the President to designate to each Ministry a Minister. The prerogative of allocating Ministerial portfolios is solely vested in the President by the provisions of Section 5 (1) (a) and Section 148 (1):
Section 5 (1) (a)
“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation –
shall be vested in the President and may, subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any law made by the National Assembly, be exercised by him directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or officers in the public service of the Federation …”
Section 148 (1)
“The President may, in his discretion, assign to the Vice-President or any Minister of the Government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of government.”
Summarily: the President may establish as many Ministries as he deems necessary – but not below the nethermost of 36 Ministries – assigning to each a Minister of his choice.
One of the most common issues that have arisen from President Buhari’s decision to oversee the Petroleum Ministry is bordered on the provisions of Section 138 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria as amended:
“The President shall not, during his tenure office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever”
Except for mischief, it is clear to the meticulous observer that the overseeing of the Ministry of Petroleum by the President does not in any way mean him taking another office or paid employment. The President is vested with ALL executive powers of the Federation by virtue of Section 5 (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria as amended. The same Section provides that the exercise of the executive powers of the President may (at the President’s discretion) be exercised by Ministers, but in no way precludes the President from the exercise of his executive powers. The petroleum sector is a branch of the executive. And by virtue of this fact the President may decide to oversee this Ministry by himself – as he has so chosen.
This once venal Ministry must have a turn around. Its peculiar recent past that harbored high-level malfeasance and embarrassing pilferage of our nation’s commonwealth must experience CHANGE indeed. President Buhari has made it clear that he wants to make a difference in his administration; he wants to ensure that this sector which produces the largest part of our revenue works well. And where it does, it would be for the benefit of every Nigerian.
The recent constant supply of gas to our power thermal plants has led to a boost in electricity generation and supply. Availability of petroleum products generally without hustles, transparency being entrenched in a sector where the activities were hitherto clouded in opaqueness and mystery, is enough proof that President Buhari’s mantra of change is not mere verbalism. This is a good and welcome start. And with the President overseeing the sector, with an extra eye, things are surely headed for the better.
Johannes Wojuola, Lawyer and the Editor-in-Chief of LOL! Magazine writes from Abuja.