Ministers of State, Festus Keyamo and Ramatu Aliyu of Labour and Employment and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), respectively, have bemoaned the fate of junior ministers under the outgoing administration, with legal luminary describing the position as a constitutional aberration.
Both ministers spoke at the valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday.
They aired their greviances along with the other ministers in the last meeting before the expiration of the administration.
Taking their turns to speak, Keyamo, told President Buhari, that the creation of the office of the Minister of State was a constitutional aberration, while his counterpart in the FCT described the office as a limiting factor on the capacity those so appointed.
Keyamo said: “What I am about to say, therefore, is not and should not be construed as an indication of ingratitude. Far from it. What I am about to say is just my own little contribution to our constitutional development as a relatively young democracy and to aid future governments to optimize the performance of those they appoint as Ministers.
“Mr. President, the concept or designation of ‘Minister of State’ is a constitutional aberration and is practically not working for many so appointed. Successive governments have come and gone and many who were appointed as Ministers of State have not spoken out at a forum such as this because of the risk of sounding ungrateful to the Presidents who appointed them. However, like I said earlier, this is not ingratitude.”
On the way forward, he said, “Many Ministerial Retreats have been held to try and resolve the issues between Ministers and Ministers of State. President Obasanjo held four of such Retreats, with the last one holding at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos, from 23rd to 25th February, 2001. Yet, the problems persisted.
“Mr. President, unknown to many successive Presidents and the general public, these conflicts gravely affect the optimal performance of Governments. What is the way forward?
“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 Government does not need any extra infrastructure or more money to maintain all Senior 36 Ministers or even a bit more appointed as is now the custom.
“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?”
On her part, the Minister of State for FCT, said “If you are appointed, if you serve your state, if you underwent the same training, you attend the same FEC representing your people. Why then is your voice hinged upon another minister’s voice? Why is lack of planning on another minister’s part an emergency on yours? Why is the label ineptitude now the label you will carry if he should fail?
“All these should be looked into by the next administration to put the country in the good path of trajectory. Let me tell you this, if and only if, and that is the little minus I saw in this administration, all ministers were allowed to perform, the performances of the government and the achievement of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, I’ll beat my chest they cannot be equaled.
“But if one plus one becomes one, then there is an issue. Why then have a minister of state, whose capacity, no matter what is brought forth, will be weighed and will be debated upon will be decided to go or not go to FEC by a colleague. So that does not do justice to the appointment, it doesn’t do justice to the people represented, it does not even do justice to the persons presenting themselves.
“But by and large, it was fantastic is worth an experience, because you know what that did to me? It also built my thick skin. It built my endurance level, it built my capacity to understand what is not and what does not. And it has built me largely to operate within the level availed to me and hopefully there will be an unknown another opportunity, sometimes somewhere God’s grace to be able to unleash the potential of so many untapped representing ministers.”