“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, of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
Pursuant to the above quoted Section, the President is expressly, definitively and unambiguously not allowed to hold any other executive position throughout the duration of his presidency.
As has become customary, albeit most offensive, Presidency Muhammadu Buhari chose to formally inform his fellow citizens of his ill-advised intention to retain the coveted Petroleum ministry portfolio while on foreign land, precisely during his recent visit to New York.
Media sources have quoted the President’s spokes person, 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 throughout his tenure, from 1999 to 2007, in violation of Section 138 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
As we await for the overall screening of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees both the first batch and second batch by the Senate, in pursuant to Section 147(2) of the Constitution, it is pertinent to raise a clear alarm not only about on imminent infraction, but indeed to shed more light on an ongoing illegality being perpetrated by the President for reserving the juicy position of petroleum ministry for himself in contravention of the Section 138 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999.
Since his assumption of office on May 29, 2015, President Buhari has been acting and exercising the substantive power of the Minister of Petroleum Resources; and is likely to continue to do so for a long time to come. 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 violation of Section 138 of the Constitution.
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 grund norm 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 stated in Section 138 of the Constitution effectively precludes President Buhari from appointing himself Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources and, therefore, also not allow 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, of 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, 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.
Nobody can convince me that in a country that boasts of many leading authorities in petroleum resources engineering and administration, President 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 God Almighty grant President Buhari and cabinet the grace and wisdom to enable them steer this nation aright. He needs our continued fervent prayers, patience, wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
Orunbon, a public affairs analyst wrote in from Epe, Lagos