Exactly five months after their election, eight out of the 29 state governors sworn in on May 29, 2019, have not appointed commissioners in line with a key provision of the 1999 Constitution.
Daily Trust findings show that Governors Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Darius Ishaku (Taraba), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) and Ben Ayade (Cross River) have not constituted their cabinets.
However, 21 governors who were sworn in same day with those mentioned above have formed their cabinets or sent lists of their commissioners to their Houses of Assembly for confirmation.
The governors are those of Lagos, Sokoto, Kaduna, Borno, Benue, Oyo, Imo, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Ebonyi.
Others are governors of Abia, Bauchi, Adamawa, Gombe, Kwara, Plateau, Jigawa, Katsina, Nasarawa, Enugu and Niger.
Daily Trust reports that Section 192 of the 1999 Constitution makes the appointment of commissioners compulsory for governors.
The section reads in part, “There shall be such offices of commissioners of the government of a state as may be established by the governor of the state.”
It adds that, “Any appointment to the office of commissioner of the government of a state shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the House of Assembly of the state, be made by the governor of that state, and in making any such appointment, the governor shall conform with the provisions of Section 14(4) of this constitution.”
Findings by our correspondents have revealed that most of the governors that are yet to constitute their cabinets have continued to award multi-billion naira contracts.
And while some lawyers say the essence of having commissioners is for the governors to have competent people who will assist them in policy formulation, including projects to be executed for the benefit of the people, the legal experts differ on whether the governors have unilateral powers to award contracts without recourse to the state executive councils.
In Kano, a source close to Gov. Ganduje said the governor was “trying to make good choice”, hence the delay in appointing commissioners.
Another source said most of the ongoing projects were spillover from the last executive council, and added that no single new project was awarded because there was no cabinet to approve it.
Spokesperson of the governor, Abba Anwar, also said Gov. Ganduje was delaying appointment of commissioners in order to select the best hands.
Anwar said, “The governor is being careful this time around so that he would choose credible and competent people that can serve the state better. He is following due diligence in making appointments. He started with heads of agencies and parastatals and gradually he will appoint commissioners.”
In five months, Gov. Buni of Yobe has commenced two key projects amounting to N13.6bn even though he has not yet formed the state executive council.
The two projects, according to Daily Trust findings, are a N10.8bn housing project and 2.8bn Damaturu Ultra-Modern Market.
Shortly after taking oath of office on May 29, 2019, Gov. Buni re-appointed Alh. Baba Wali as the acting Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and subsequently made few other appointments.
A source around the state government said the delay in appointing commissioners was to a great extent slowing the progress of government, and added that “a governor cannot be everywhere” and emphasised that “one cannot be governor and commissioner at the same time.”
The source maintained that although the governor had done a lot in kick-starting many projects, such projects required constant supervision that could only be carried out by commissioners or advisers.
However, Alh. Bature Goniri who led the campaign team of the governor, said the delay in the constitution of the cabinet was not unusual, and added that there was need for strategic planning before a cabinet was constituted.
In Zamfara, despite the non-appointment of commissioners, Gov. Matawalle has awarded contracts worth billions of naira since he came to office.
For instance, the governor awarded contract for the construction of primary schools and the renovation of existing ones across the 14 local government areas of the state at the cost of N5.7bn.
In addition, he awarded contracts for the construction of Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) in the three senatorial districts of the state at the cost of N2.8bn for each.
There is also a contract for the reconstruction, rehabilitation and equipping of the state radio and television stations at the cost of N600m.
Brand new Hilux vehicles were also procured for security operatives at the cost of N3bn. These are besides the ambulances purchased for the general hospitals across the state.
Contacted, the Director General, Press Affairs to the governor, Alhaji Yusuf Idris, said the list of the cabinet members was yet to be submitted to the House of Assembly and did not say when the cabinet would be nominated or inaugurated.
In Rivers, Gov. Wike has only appointed the SSG, as well as Commissioners for Justice and Finance.
However, the governor has without a full cabinet awarded contracts for key projects, including three flyovers being handled by Julius Berger at the cost of N21bn.
Our correspondent reports that the delay in constituting the full cabinet is generating mixed reactions from stakeholders in the state.
The Labour Party (LP) in the state recently gave the governor a seven-day ultimatum to constitute a cabinet.
The state Chairman of LP, Prince Reuben, said the governor should have full cabinet members that would help him deliver dividends of democracy to the people.
The governor had said that he sent the names of those to be appointed commissioners to the Department of State Security (DSS) for vetting, and added that he was taking his time to appoint those that would work with him.
In Taraba, Gov. Ishaku is yet to appoint commissioners and has not awarded contract for new projects.
His spokesperson, Mr. Bala DanAbu, told Daily Trust in a telephone interview that the governor had not awarded any contract for new projects during this period.
DanAbu, however, admitted that there were ongoing projects in many parts of the state.
However, some people in Jalingo and other parts of the state have frowned at the development, saying it did not speak well for good governance.
In Ogun, people are reportedly losing patience following the failure of Gov. Abiodun, a first-term governor, to constitute his cabinet.
Gov. Abiodun appointed Tokunbo Talabi as SSG and Shuaib Salisu as Chief of Staff, and also appointed a retinue of aides who are manning most ministries in the absence of commissioners.
While his cabinet is yet to be constituted, the governor has secured the House of Assembly’s nod to access a N1.5bn Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) credit facility to finance the Federal Government Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
In June, Gov. Abiodun stirred the hornets’ nest when he disclosed that he took nearly N7bn loan to pay the salary for May. This was barely three days after he assumed office.
The Allied Peoples Movement (APM) in the state had slammed the governor, describing the borrowing as “height of gross irresponsibility”.
When contacted on the delayed cabinet, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, Kunle Somorin, told Daily Trust that, “The governor is still consulting, but certainly, we will not be talking about this in the new month.”
Gov. Bagudu of Kebbi is also yet to form his cabinet with sources close to him saying he was still consulting with stakeholders in the state on the personalities to be brought on board.
Top government officials who spoke to our correspondent under condition of anonymity said the governor would have announced his cabinet some weeks ago, but that it was put on hold because of local government elections.
Within the five months of his inauguration, the governor has granted soft loans to various Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) associations. At an elaborate ceremony in Birnin Kebbi Township Stadium, 200 vehicles valued at over N500m were handed over to the state chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) members by his government. Other trade associations such as of fishermen and artisans were given N1bn soft loans to boost their businesses.
Stakeholders and some government officials have decried the delay in the constitution of a cabinet by Gov. Ayade of Cross River.
Gov. Ayade had earlier hinted that he might appoint his commissioners in November, 2019, but that he would reduce the number from the 34 he had during his first term.
Bassey Ita, the spokesman of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, said Gov. Ayade was taking the state for a ride, describing his attitude as “fake”.
Governors have done nothing wrong – Balarabe Musa
A former Governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, said there was nothing wrong constitutionally for governors to award contracts without appointing commissioners.
Alh. Musa who noted that although it might be difficult for the governors to single-handedly run their states, said nothing stopped them from doing what they wanted to do as chief executives of their states.
He said, “Well, in the first place, failure to constitute an executive cabinet in the state doesn’t stop any governor from awarding contracts. The governor can award contracts…Remember that everybody in the state is an aide to the governor except those who are specifically mentioned by the law with their responsibilities,” and added that, “Even without appointing commissioners he can be the governor and function.”
Musa was unable to form a cabinet following his refusal to nominate NPN members, hence the House refused to ratify his candidates. Eventually the House impeached him in June 1981, making him the first Nigerian state governor ever to be impeached.
Speaking on the issue, a lawyer, Isaac Anumnu, said it was unconstitutional for governors to take unilateral decisions when it came to awarding contracts.
In the same vein, another lawyer, E.M.D. Umukoro, said an action where only one person determined a project and awarded contracts amounted to flouting the Nigerian Constitution.
Umukoro said, “The Houses of Assembly need to wake up and challenge such irregularity because if they are functioning the way they ought to, they ought to call the governors to order.
“Human rights activists, citizens of those states, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the press need to wake up and question this illegality because we are not going to make any headway if we just sit down and fold our hands.”
However, another lawyer, Hamid Ajibola Jimoh, citing Sections 192(1) and 193(1) of the 1999 Constitution, said the functions of a commissioner were at the discretion of a governor and as such the governor did not necessarily need their inputs to execute projects.
Jimoh said, “Furthermore, the governor of a state is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the state and has the general responsibility of carrying out any responsibility of the state either directly or through the deputy governor and commissioners of the government of that state in line with Sections 5(2) and 176(2) of the constitution.
“However, such award of contracts must comply with the Public Procurement Act/Law as the case may be.”