Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing, has said a “sizeable number of Nigerians” do not know that the President lacks the power to arbitrarily sack police officers.
Fashola, a former Lagos State governor, disclosed this while speaking at the Yoruba Tennis Club annual lecture in Lagos on Friday.
Delivering a lecture on the topic: ‘What can the president do for me?’, the minister, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said it is shocking that many Nigerians do not properly understand the governance structure of the country as stipulated in the 1999 constitution (as amended).
Making reference to the demands made during the #EndSARS protest of October 2020, he stated that the president cannot arbitrarily sack the Inspector-General of Police or other police officers because they are employees of the Police Service Commission, and not his personal employees.
He said: “At the onset of the protest against the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) when five demands were made in respect of the police and SARS, President Muhammadu Buhari weighed in on the side of the protesters.
“In my interaction with some of them, young and not so young, they wanted the president to sack some policemen, in some cases, even the inspector-general of police.
“During this interaction, I referred them to the provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended, that I pointed out to them that the president of Nigeria cannot sack a policeman because a policeman is not the employee of the president, but rather the employee of the police service commission.
“The president can only sack ministers and other appointees that he personally appoints to assist him and not any civil servant deployed to work for him such as a cook, driver, or administrative staff who are ordinary employees of the civil service commission.
“Not a few persons were surprised to hear this. Indeed, I have discovered that a sizeable number of our people express surprise when I explain the structure of government to them.”
Fashola also dismissed claims that the President of Nigeria has more powers granted to him than that of the US President, saying that it is a fallacy.
He also said some Nigerians have the wrong assumption that as minister, he has the sole power to decide on monetary allocations.
He said: “For example, I explain to people that as governor or minister I do not sign cheques, vouchers or documents that directly involve the transfer of money.
“On the contrary, at certain levels of payment under the financial regulation, my powers as governor or minister are limited to approving recommendations for payment made to me through the permanent secretary, after he and I have satisfied ourselves that the government has received value for the payment or will do so.
“Although the federal ministry of works and housing has several directorates such as construction and rehabilitation, planning and development, bridges and design, materials geotechnics and quality control, finance and accounts, legal and procurement, many openly express surprise when I tell them that only engineers, architects, valuers, builders, town planners and those involved in the built industry are staff of the ministry of works and housing.
“What is true of the federal civil service system in this regard is largely true of the state civil service systems. This in part is why the public service is a bureaucracy.
“I am surprised that this surprises people and this is a part of the reason for choosing to discuss it at this public forum.
“So, very often, I hear general statements that the president of Nigeria is very powerful. Sometimes, they say the office is too powerful in some cases they even ascribe more powers to him than the United States president.”