council of state
President Muhammadu Buhari

By Eric Teniola

THE meeting of the National Council of State is long overdue. The Council met last on January 22 last year and discussed many issues, especially the minimum wage. Although the Council has no executive power but its advisory role is important.

The National Economic Council and the Council of State are the two bodies created by the Constitution to advise the President on specific matters.  The Council should have been involved in the recent pardon of Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (1923-2010) from Uromi in Edo State and Professor Ambrose Folorunsho Alli (1929-1989) from Ekpoma in Edo State, who was born on September 22, 1929 in Ido-Ani in Ondo State, if it had met.

I am sure the Council could have asked why the delay in awarding national honours for the past four years. The national honours are a set of orders and decorations conferred upon Nigerians and friends of Nigeria every year. They were instituted by the National Honours Act No. 5 of 1964, during the Nigerian First Republic, to honour Nigerians who have rendered service to the benefit of the nation.

The Council was established to unify the country, especially during crisis like the pandemic we have now. The Council was not made to be idle.

The presence of those retired Presidents and former Heads of State and former Chief Justices was to provide a sense of national unity. Their familiar presence will be most reassuring now. Gradually they are being stripped of one of their jobs in retirement: that is their unique ability to unify the country in a crisis.

The Council could have advised on many burning issues affecting the country. It is a constitutional responsibility for the National Council of State to meet often. I think it is obligatory. The annual meeting of the Council is not tidy enough. Regular meetings of such bodies will help President Muhammadu Buhari to accommodate new ideas on how to run a complex country like Nigeria. The key to building relationship currency is through authentic connections.

Too often leaders get so caught in the day-to-day administration that they forget that their reports are on people with feelings. The mountain of problems that face us as a country today is beyond the wisdom of President Buhari alone, however competent he could be and his aides and those who serve him, who can’t oppose him for fear of losing their positions or friendship. I guess it’s even beyond the wisdom of the National Assembly and the Governors’ Forum. The only person who can summon the meeting of the Council of State is President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Secretary of the Council is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha who is also the Secretary of the Federal Executive Council; Secretary of the National Defence Council and the head of the Cabinet Secretariat.

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Although the power of Secretary to the Government of the Federation has been encroached, trespassed and infringed now, statutorily he is to process appointments to headship of statutory bodies, commissions and agencies by the President; he is also to co-ordinate activities of ministries and government agencies, especially on the implementation of government policies and decisions as well as to channel papers and directives of the President and to deal with constitutional, political and economic matters as may be referred to the Presidency.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation is supposed to be the engine room of the government. He is the pulse of the heart of government that acts as a unifying force. He is the brain box of the central government with six Permanent Secretaries working directly under his supervisions. The idea of the National Council of State was first introduced by General Murtala Ramat Mohammed (November 8,1938 – February 13, 1976) on July 30, 1975 in his broadcast to the nation shortly after deposing General Yakubu Gowon, GCFR.

He told the nation that day that “the structure of government has been re-organised. There will now be three organs of Government, at the Federal level namely: The Supreme Military Council, The National Council of State, and the Federal Executive Council.”

He then appointed the following governors as members of the Council of State, namely: Lt. Col. Muhammed Buhari (North-East), Colonel George Innih (Mid-West), Lt. Col. Sani Bello (Kano), Captain Adekunle Lawal (Navy, Lagos), Lt. Col. Paul Omu (South-East), Colonel Ibrahim Taiwo (Kwara), Captain Akin Aduwo (Navy, West), Colonel Anthony Ochefu (East-Central), Lt. Col. Usman Jubrin (North-Central), Col. Abdullahi Mohammed (Benue-Plateau), Lt. Col. Umaru Mohammed (North-West) and Lt. Col. Zamani Lekwot (Rivers).

In the First Republic, there was no National Council of State as the Premiers were in control of their regions. Occasionally they met with the then Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, GCFR. After taking over power in January 15, 1966, General Johnson Thomas Umanakwe Aguiyi Ironsi (1924-1966), GCFR, set up the Supreme Military Council and appointed military governors of the four regions as members of the council.

That pattern of structure was followed and sustained by General Yakubu Gowon (85) during his reign between 1966 and 1975. General Murtala Mohammed excluded the military governors from the Supreme Military Council and only limited them to the National Council of State.

The 1979 Constitution produced by Justice Egbert Udo Udoma (1917-1998) enlarged the composition of the Council of State. In the third schedule of the 1979 Constitution, it states that: “1. The Council of State shall comprise the following persons, namely – (a) the President, who shall be the Chairman; (b) the Vice-President, who shall be the Deputy Chairman; (c) all former Presidents of the Federation and all former Heads of the Government of the Federation; (d) all former Chief Justices of Nigeria who are citizens of Nigeria; (e) the President of the Senate; (f) the Speaker of the House of Representatives; (g) all the Governors of the States of the Federation; (h) the Attorney-General of the Federation; and (i) one person from each State, who shall as respects that State be appointed by the Council of Chiefs of the State from among themselves.



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