Is the President Obliged to Appoint Ministers vis-a-vis Nigerian Constitution 1999 as amended?

It is a trite law that is settled beyond recondite that the executive powers of the federation are vested in the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The President has the right to exercise the executive powers either in person or through his Vice President and Ministers of government or other public officers appointed for that purpose as entrenched in the provisions of Section 5(1)(a) of the grundnorm.

The question that is now begging for answer is whether or not the president is under obligation to appoint ministers and to answer this question, a cursory look must be made to the provisions of the Constitution.

A legal surgery of section 147(1) of the constitution is to the effect that there shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President.

It has been the position of the law for a very long time that it is now trite beyond recondite that “shall” ordinarily means command when used in a statute as fortified in the case of Kalamu V. Gunrim (2003) 16 N.W.L.R (Pt 847) p. 517 where it was held thus:

the term ‘shall’ is a word of command and denotes obligation and this gives no discretion. It imposes a duty”. PER OMOLEYE, J.C.A (P.24, paras C-E).

Therefore, it is incumbent on the president to appoint minister however the law has given discretion on the numbers of the minister to be appointed.

To further put flesh into my argument, it is apposite to bring forth the provisions of section 150 of the constitution which is to the effect that there shall be an Attorney-General of the Federation who shall be the Chief Law Officer of the Federation and a Minister of the Government of the Federation.

It is settled principle of interpretation that provisions in statutes must be given their simple and direct meaning. The case of N.P.A Plc V. Lotus plastics Ltd (2005) 19 N.W.L.R (Pt. 959) is apposite in this regard.

Assuming but not conceding that the provisions of section 147(1) of the fons juris has made it discretionary to appoint ministers and the president has refused to appoint any, then what about the provisions of section 150 of the constitution that have imposed an obligation on the president to appoint a minister of the government of the federation who shall be the Attorney General of the Federation?

Having submitted that it is not only mandatory but also obligatory on the president to appoint ministers, it is my further argument that at least 36 ministers must be appointed.

In order to be able to appreciate this assertion, recourse must be made to the provisions of section 147(3) of the constitution which is to the effect that any appointment under this section by the President shall be in conformity with the principles of federal character embedded in section 14(3) of this Constitution and in giving effect to the principles aforementioned, the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State.

The implication of this proviso to section 147 is to the effect that whenever the president wishes to appoint ministers, he must comply with the federal character principle by appointing at least one minister from each state which implies that the president must appoint at least 36 ministers.

This is because it is an elementary law that Nigeria has thirty-six (36) states as this position has found solace in section 3 of the Nigerian Constitution.

It is my imperviously far-reaching and unimpeachable submission that the President is not only mandated by law to appoint ministers but also to appoint at least a minister in all states of the federation.

Taofik Waliu Opeyemi
A student of law, University of Ilorin.

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