On Friday, May 13, 2022 President Muhammadu Buhari summoned the ministers who had submitted their resignation letters to a valedictory programme at the Villa. Equally invited to the programme were the other ministers involved in politics but who had failed to submit their letters of resignation.
At the brief ceremony the President thanked the outgoing Ministers for their invaluable services to the nation through their contributions as Cabinet members. While giving them a pat on the back the President said: “I wish you success in the upcoming elections and in your future endeavours.”
While responding on behalf of the outgoing Ministers, Mr. Godswill Akpabio thanked the President for giving them the opportunity to serve and contribute their quota to nation-building. He described working with the President as a ‘‘fantastic and knowledgeable experience,’’ adding that as they step aside they would continue to be great disciples of President Buhari.
After the farewell ceremony the Presidency published the names of the 9 Ministers who had left the cabinet together with the farewell picture taken with the President. In the circumstances, the former ministers are estopped from denying their exit from the Cabinet.
In opposing my views, Professor N.O. Obiaraeri was reported to have said that “There is no evidence of a written acknowledgment of the letter and acceptance of the letter of resignation by the person to whom it was addressed.” With respect to the learned Professor, the Constitution does not provide for “a written acknowledgment of the letter and acceptance of the letter of resignation”. As far as the Constitution is concerned, the resignation of a Minister takes effect once the letter of resignation is received by the appointing authority. For the avoidance of doubt, section 306 (2) thereof provides that “The resignation of any person from any office established by this Constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it.”
Apart from the direct and express provision of the Constitution, this is also the position as judicially proclaimed in several cases. In Benson v. Onitiri (1960) SCNLR 177 @189-190; Sunday v. Olugbenga & ors (2008) LPELR-4995 (CA); WAEC V. Oshienebo (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt. 994) 258 it was held that resignation or voluntary retirement takes immediate effect, once received by the employer or agent of the employer. In Yesufu v Governor of Edo State & Ors (2001) LPELR-3526 (SC) it was held that resignation needs not be formally “accepted”.
From the foregoing, the implication of inviting the outgoing Ministers to the valedictory ceremony was that President Buhari had made up his mind to dispense with their services with effect from May 16, 2022. And the participation of the ministers in the valedictory ceremony without any protest whatsoever meant that they had accepted their exit from the cabinet. Having regards to the facts and circumstances of the national crisis the outgoing Ministers are estopped from denying that they have been removed from the cabinet. But two of ministers have announced their plans to sit tight in office and thereby expose the country to undeserved ridicule. While wishing them well in their dream world it is hoped that the Federal Government will call them to order without any further delay.