Prominent legal experts, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Femi Falana and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, have stepped into the ongoing dispute involving the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, and Senator Ireti Kingibe, who represents the FCT.
Falana and Adegboruwa have emphasized that the FCT minister is not beholden to Senator Kingibe or the National Assembly concerning the execution of his duties.
In response to the senator’s warnings, they clarified that the FCT minister is not vested with executive powers but must adhere to the constitutional framework established by the legislative branch of the country.
This intervention by the senior lawyers sheds light on the intricacies of the dispute surrounding the jurisdiction and authority of the FCT minister in relation to the National Assembly.
Kingibe said, “You also have to remember that the minister of the FCT – I’m not sure we have had a former governor as a minister, I think we have had one. Some [former] governors may think that as an FCT minister, the minister does not have executive powers. He works hand-in-hand with the National Assembly and the president to administer the FCT.”
In his interpretation of the constitution, Falana said that Kingibe’s assertion on the minister’s accountability to the National Assembly in the execution of his responsibilities was incorrect.
He said, “The distinguished senator is wrong. The power of the executive with respect to the FCT lies with the President. Making laws and passing laws for the FCT are the business of the National Assembly.
“Section 299(a) of the constitution provides: The provisions of this constitution shall apply to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as if it were one of the states of the Federation; and accordingly
“(a) all the legislative powers, the executive powers and the judicial powers vested in the House of Assembly, the governor of a state and in the courts of a state shall, respectively, vest in the National Assembly, the President of the Federation and in the courts which by virtue of the foregoing provisions are courts established for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
He continued by saying that because the President, who serves as the FCT’s governor, has the authority to grant the minister certain delegations of the executive powers of the FCT, the minister is free to act in the President’s place.
Falana said, “The executive powers of the FCT are vested in the President, the legislative powers are vested in the National Assembly, while the judicial powers are vested in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
“To that extent, it is very wrong to say that since there is no governor in the FCT, the executive powers are vested in the National Assembly; those powers are vested in the President.
He added, “If you are dissatisfied with the decision taken by anyone in the FCT, you go to the FCT High Court.”
In agreement with his colleague, Adegboruwa asserted that the Minister’s accountability lay with the President rather than the National Assembly, as Kingibe had suggested.
The SAN explained, “The ministers are all appointed by the President, and they owe their duties solely to the President who has the power to remove them or have their decisions overturned.
“Among the ministers, only the Attorney General has specific responsibilities that are recognised by law as stated in Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution.”
Adegboruwa further explained, “The rest of the ministers have no specific statutory duties unless assigned to them by the President.
“So, to that extent, the ministers of the FCT, like other ministers, report to the President for his day-to-day activities. He is not responsible to the National Assembly or members of the legislature except with respect to defending the expenditure or budgeted estimate or whenever he is summoned to appear before the National Assembly when they are carrying out their oversight functions or they are passing a law that requires some investigations or contributions.”
The senior lawyer further explained that, aside from that, the minister’s day-to-day performance of duties is not subject to accountability to the National Assembly so long as it is legal and consistent with the President’s appointment, who appointed him.
He added, “As it pertains to the FCT generally, I think that it is important to recognise that it is a no man’s land by the law of our land, although the constitution also recognises the natives and the indigenous people.
“By designation, anybody could be appointed to hold any position in the FCT. Just like in the case of the FCT, you’d see that all FCT High Court judges are occupied by people all over the country.
“So, it is not correct to say that appointment into the FCT must be limited to the indigenes, though I believe they should be carried along. But that cannot be a validation to discredit the minister.”