THE CREATION OF MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS IN THE STATE: GOVERNOR UZODIMMA WAS WRONGLY ADVISED
Prince MacDonald Enwere
On the 23th day of March 2020, at Ahajioku Convention Center Owerri, Governor Hope Uzodimma swore in 23 persons as Commissioners. After swearing in the said Commissioners, the Governor allocated Ministries to them to take charge of.
Dr Fabian Ihekwueme from Obowo LGA was appointed to take charge of the newly created Ministry of Foreign and International Affairs.
I know as a fact and also as a matter of profound necessity that no State Governor has business and powers, constitutionally speaking, with Foreign Affairs Ministry which is listed on the Exclusive Legislative list.
Sincerely speaking, should Governor Uzodimma’s action be seen as an act of grass Ignorance or a deliberate hot slap on the face of our Constitution. The principles of constitutional democracy should be allowed to take its grip in our governance culture any day any time.
I am sure that Governor Uzodimma is aware that the powers to create Government Ministries and appoint Commissioners to run Ministries was passionately and selflessly donated to him by section 5, subsection 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). This said Section 5 states as follows: “(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of a State –
(a) Shall be vested in the Governor of that State and may, Subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any Law made by a House of Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Deputy Governor and commissioners of the Government of that State or officers in the public service of the State; and
(b) shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, all laws made by the House of Assembly of the State and to all matters with respect to which the House of Assembly has for the time being power to make laws.”
Also, Section 193 (1) of the Constitution throws more light on the Governor’s powers to appoint Commissioners thus: “The Governor of a State may, in his discretion, assign to the Deputy Governor or any Commissioner of the Government of the State responsibility for any business of the Government of that State, including the administration of any department of Government.”
Even a 100-level law student knows that the Governor only has powers to create ministries and appoint commissioners “in execution and maintenance of:a) this Constitution, (the 1999 Constitution)
b) all laws made by the House of Assembly of the State
c) and to all matters with respect to which the House of Assembly has for the time being power to make laws.”
In other words, if the Governor created a ministry or appointed a Commissioner which is not directly in maintenance of the Constitution or any law made by the House of Assembly (even if there is any such law made by the Imo State House of Assembly, it will be illegal as long as it touches on an item on the Exclusive Legislative List), it must be in a matter or area where the House of Assembly has for the time being power to make laws.
The “Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part l of the Second Schedule to this Constitution”, will show that Foreign Affairs is listed as item 26; meaning that it is included in the Exclusive Legislative list which the Imo State House of Assembly has for the time being NO powers to make laws on. And thus the Governor cannot exercise executive powers in such area by creating Ministry or appointing Commissioner in the area of Foreign Affairs.
I don’t need to be a lawyer to point out that It was held in the case of A.G Abia & Ors vs A.G Federation (2004 – 2007) 3 LLRN p. 1260 (Page 1326, Para 25-45; Page 1327, para 5), that a person or body named in the constitution with its functions spelt out therein cannot perform any other statutory function which is not borne out of the Constitution.
It was also held in the case of Anyaoha vs Obioha (2014) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1404) p. 445, that the Constitution is a very serious document and should not be treated with levity.
You also don’t need to be a SAN to know that there are areas of power exclusively reserved for the central ggovernment as defined by the Constitution. This simply entails that only the central or Federal Government can legislate on the subject or areas of exclusive list. Interference on the State or Regional Government on matters in the exclusive list can be declared null and void and unconditional.
GOVERNOR UZODIMMA may have created this Ministry to serve as a statutory body to re-inforce foreign decision-making implementation and to also harness foreign investment opportunities for the State, but he ought to know that it is not within the ambit of the law for him to run a Ministry that is under the exclusive legislative list.
Governor Been Ayade of Cross River State tried it recently by creating Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Aviation but he is regretting it today because his is now in the eyes of the storm and the Court is about to use a sledgehammer on him.
This is just a sound advisory note to the Governor.