Nigeria’s newly appointed cabinet members face a crucial task in upholding the rule of law, particularly in the wake of past instances where previous administrations disrespected constitutional provisions. The roles of these cabinet members extend beyond mere policy-making; they bear the responsibility of ensuring that the foundation of the nation’s governance, the Constitution, is respected and upheld. It’s not so much an amiable template to follow in recent times. They have to dig deeper to find a diamond in the rough if they truly want to be seen and heard doing the work.
Given the track record of past cabinet members who disregarded constitutional provisions, the new cabinet must prioritise transparency, accountability, and adherence to the rule of law. Each member, entrusted with specific portfolios, holds a distinct role in safeguarding the Constitution’s integrity. For instance, the Minister of Justice, who doubles as the Attorney General of the Federation, plays a central role in interpreting and enforcing the Constitution, ensuring that all actions and policies adhere to its tenets. A quick revisit to the predecessor scorecard shows a lot of divisive opinions between his colleagues and top members of the law profession. Some say Abubakar Malami’s failure to obey the interim injunction by the Supreme Court to suspend the February 10 Naira swap deadline and consequent directive to continue the use of the old naira notes amounts to full-blown disregard for the one thing he was appointed to secure, the Constitution. In a follow-up to his stern disobedience, he defended his advice to his principal, President Buhari, to deliberately disobey the apex court’s extant order on maintaining the Nigerian currency status quo. In addition, he regaled himself as the legal aid for six consultants pushing to gain massive US$418 million state and local government money, purportedly for initiating refunds of the over-deduction on their accounts by the federal government in obligations to Paris Club. Reports say he continued the side hustle for these consultants despite a clear directive that the payment be stopped while waiting for the case to be decided by the court. We must not be quick to forget his involvement in the return of Abacha loot from Switzerland in 2019 and how he openly against intervening in the whole process in a way that shows that he is the attorney general of Nigerians, not a few elites.
The President has recalled another former minister who spewed insults on the intelligence of Nigerians to solidify his inventory of ministerial portfolio. Festus Keyamo, a former minister of state for Labour and Employment under firmer President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, has been screened by the 10th Red Chamber, leaving the house divided on his capacity to perform in any ministry owing to his flagrant comments during and after his time as minister in the previous administration. In April 2020, during the colossal ruse of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government approved the recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians on a special public works program, with the mandate of 1,000 people per LGA. Seen as a program to cushion the effect of hardship caused by fiscal starvation for low-income Nigerians, especially those in the rural communities, the minister could not explain with evidence how the funds were spent when summoned by the National Assembly in that same year. As a fightback mechanism, he chided the red chamber for attempting to blackmail him and ultimately hijack the SPW (Special Public Works) exercise from the National Directorate of Employment (NDE). This infraction allegedly perpetrated by Keyamo during his unsavoury time as minister is a genuine reason to cut down expectations in whichever ministry he heads in this administration.
Furthermore, the cabinet members overseeing key sectors such as finance, security, and governance must collaboratively work to ensure that financial regulations are followed, security agencies operate within the law, and democratic principles are upheld. Their collective efforts are essential in establishing a culture of respect for constitutional provisions, thereby restoring public trust and confidence.
To achieve this, the new cabinet must implement mechanisms for oversight, review, and accountability. Regular checks and balances within ministries can prevent abuses of power and unconstitutional actions. Public awareness campaigns and civic education can empower citizens to demand accountability from their leaders, fostering a culture where the rule of law is paramount.
Though several cases bordering on corruption and other aggravated bribery allegations are pending in courts, we see a pattern of judicial nonchalance where these embattled government officials get a mild tap on the wrist for crimes with bulging evidence. There are few nominees who have unflattering criminal baggage and are seemingly energised to get into more shady deals. The entire institution of government will be on the edge of the precipice if nothing is done to avert the longstanding economic upheaval and other inhumane conditions in the country.
In conclusion, Nigeria’s new cabinet members hold the key to rectifying the errors of the past and restoring faith in the Constitution. Their roles in upholding the rule of law are not only crucial for the stability of the nation but also for demonstrating a commitment to democratic principles and ensuring that history does not repeat itself. The new cabinet can pave the way for a more just and lawful governance system by prioritising transparency, accountability, and adherence to constitutional provisions.