The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari did not violate any law by reappointing Ahmed Idris as the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF).
President Buhari had reappointed Mr Idris as the AGF for a second four-year term in the office in June 2019, amid criticisms from labour groups.
Addressing State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Buhari at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa on Friday, Mr Ngige said the president exercised his constitutional powers in retaining Mr Idris in office after clocking retirement age of 60 years.
The minister said Section 171 of the Constitution empowers the president to exercise discretion in appointing persons into some extra-ministerial offices, adding that the same constitution spelled out the offices in the category, to which the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation fell.
He said: “There are other issues, all related to labour again, which I have to seek further information from Mr. President, like the reappointment of the Accountant General of the Federation, which the Trade Union Congress and the affiliate, Association of Senior Civil Servants, have drawn our attention to the fact that having clocked 60 years, that the man should exit.
“We have had two meetings on that and I have educated them that the 1999 Constitution, the supreme law of the land, is the grand norm, all other laws rose from it and any law that is in conflict with the provisions of the constitution doesn’t stand, it’s struck down.
“Therefore Mr. President has exercised his powers under Section 171 of 1999 Constitution as amended in reappointing Mr. Ahmed Idris with effect from June 25, 2019, not even today. So the man has a tenure of four years which by terms of appointment elapse June 2023,” he said.
Responding to a question on the constitutional provision that stipulates that once a career civil servant reaches the age of 60, the person should exit from service, he said he has made it clear that the issue of Accountant General of the Federation is a constitutional issue.
“The appointment is predicated on Section 171 of the Constitution of 1999, as amended,” he said.
“That Section is an omnibus section that grants the President powers to appoint those he thinks that he can work with and those offices were so listed.
“Offices in the public service of the Federation, heads of extra-ministerial departments or agencies, no matter whatever name so-called or so termed, also permanent secretaries, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, ambassadors and high commissioners and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation is part of the extra ministerial department.
“When those appointments are made and you are serving there and the President feels he can work with you, 171 protects him because he is not working for himself, he is working for the nation and he has to get the best of hands, trusted persons.
“So the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation is a sensitive position that deals with financial issues and he feels, and very rightly too, that this is the man that has been there, he is doing a good work and he wants to continue with him.
Mr Ngige said that he had explained the issues to the labour groups, Trade Union Congress and the Association of Senior Civil Servants.
“I will continue (to engage labour groups) because that is part of social dialogue,” he said.
“Next week we will meet again because they requested for (sic) documents which I made available to them, documents on the appointments and the documents to show them the area of the Constitution that the powers were so derived from, they will have all.”