President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday insisted that some ministers will not have portfolios but would only be attending cabinet meetings as representatives of their states in line with the constitution.
Buhari reaffirmed this position when he received the list of ministers-designate from the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, following the conclusion of their screening by the Senate.
Hinging his position on the current harsh economy, the president noted that while the constitution stipulates that a minister must be appointed from all the 36 states, it did not say there must be 36 ministries.
He said: “I thank you, the president of the Senate, for the work of the Senate leadership in our strive to follow the constitutional provision that the president should submit the names of those he wants to form the cabinet.
Buhari gave the assurance that he would follow the constitutional demand that each of the 36 states would have a minister in the cabinet.
“If I remember, there must be a member from each of the 36 states. That was why I limited the number of my nominees to that number, 36.
“The senators worked extremely hard and they have passed all the nominees. I think there is some enthusiasm in some parts of the Presidency today that portfolios are to be given to the 36.
“I will explain that detail. Because of the economic imperatives, to have a lot of ministers, substantive ministers, let me put it that way, whatever somebody speculated in some of today’s (Tuesday’s) newspapers, I think that the economy as I have seen it now – since my sitting here for the last four months – that we are so much battered,” he said.
Recall that during Buhari’s visit to India last week for the India-Africa Summit, he had lamented that the country was broke and might have to reduce the number of ministries as the federal government was finding it difficult to pay salaries, adding that government cannot afford votes for all ministers.
He also explained that his recent comments on the state of the nation’s economy did not amount to ‘demarketing’ the country as alleged by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He argued that any investor seeking to invest in Nigeria already knew more than enough about the real state of the nation’s economy.
He said: “Although some people are saying I am giving bad publicity and scaring away investors. Any investor who is interested in investing in Nigeria will seem to know more about the economy than ourselves.
“So when I come and tell the truth about the position of the economy of the country, I am going out looking for investors; but I am confirming to them that we are truthful, that we need them to come and help us by getting involved in industry, manufacturing and services.
“They know our needs. The economy of human resources, I believe, will make them eventually come and help us.”
In his remarks, Senate President Bukola Saraki explained that although the screening exercise was concluded last Thursday, Senate rules stipulates that the votes and proceedings had to be approved on the next legislative day before the list could be transmitted back to the executive.
“Mr. President, I want to formally present the list of the 18 ministers who have now been cleared to you; that makes a total of all your 36 nominees that have been cleared by the Senate,” he stated.
Saraki was accompanied by his chief of staff, Isa Galaudu, and the two senior special assistants to the president on National Assembly matters, Senator Ita Enang (Senate) and Hon. Suleiman Kawu (House of Representatives).