Minister: I won’t surrender programme
Senate: NDE’ll implement recruitment
The Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Mr. Festus Keyamo, yesterday, vowed that he would never allow the National Assembly to hijack the Federal Government’s Special Public Works Programme for 774,000 jobs recruitment.
This was as the Labour Minister, Senator Chris Ngige, apologised to the members of the National Assembly over the altercation that ensued between them and Keyamo last week Tuesday. Meanwhile, the National Assembly said that it had voided all arrangements already put in place by the Ministry on the recruitment of 774,000 unemployed youths across the 774 local government areas. The apex Assembly also mandated the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to immediately take over the implementation of the programme from planning stage to its execution.
The Joint National Assembly Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity, had invited Keyamo last week Tuesday, to furnish them with details of how the programme would be implemented. During the meeting, members of the committee disagreed with Keyamo on issues of modalities and jurisdiction towards the implementation of the programme, a development that led to serious altercation between the minister and the lawmakers. While the lawmakers accused Keyamo of handling the programme without transparency, the minister accused the legislators of trying to hijack the programme.
Thereafter, the highly infuriated lawmakers directed whatever progress made so far on the programme be suspended pending when the minister would properly clarify to the committee the arrangements being put in place to execute the programme. Consequently, both Ngige and Keyamo appeared before the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on a courtesy visit, obviously to reconcile the members of the Joint Committee with the Ministry in order to forge ahead with the recruitment programme.
At the meeting, Ngige apologised to the National Assembly for the altercations between Keyamo and the lawmakers, stressing the need for the Executive and the Legislature to work together in order to achieve good governance for the people. Ngige said: “We deeply regret the incident that happened at the last visit, the altercations that followed it between my Minister of State and members of the joint committees.
Therefore, we decided that as a team, we will come in force and give you the necessary information that you will need so that we can fasttrack this programme. “My Minister of State has put out a position paper, that position paper, nothing is sacrosanct there. We can still discuss and agree after disagreeing. Therefore, Mr. Senate President, I apologise on behalf of the ministry for what took place the last time. “And I hope that this apology will be taken by the members of the committee and the entire National Assembly, because I’m aware and I know that a committee is a representative of the whole. I therefore request that we forgive and forget. Let us turn a new page and start off on this programme.”
In his remarks, Lawan said that the National Assembly had the mandate and jurisdiction to accept or reject Executive requests. Lawan further stressed that the Ministry of Labour should have no role more than supervision of this programme, warning that doing the contrary would amount to violating the law. “And if the Ministry goes ahead, that means that the Ministry will be breaking the law because the budget is a law. We are not going to allow the Ministry headquarters to implement this programme at all. “All previous actions are null and void.
We don’t recognise them. You and your committee engage and start afresh,” the Senate President said. At the end of the meeting, Ngige and Keyamo then went into another meeting with the Joint Committee, where the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, Godiya Akwashiki, simply reiterated that everything done earlier on the Public Works Programme had been cancelled. He, therefore, directed the NDE to take over the execution of the programme and report to the Joint Committee on Monday next week with the blueprint on the programme.
Reacting to the decision of the National Assembly on the matter, Keyamo vowed not to allow the National Assembly to hijack the programme and give to the NDE. He also insisted that he was not going to take directives from the National Assembly, maintaining that he was only answerable to the President of Nigeria and not the Parliament.
He said: “This distinguished National Assembly I believe that they are the lawmakers and they desire to comply strictly with the provisions of the law. Now it is important that all of you and all Nigerians should go back and read the National Directorate of Employment Act, you can see that the whole struggle today is how to bypass me in the execution of this programme. I am sure you all saw how they want to bypass me in the execution. “With the provision of the law, I don’t know how they are going to go about that.
I have to go back to my principal, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to give directives. By provision of section 2 (3) of the NDE act, I am the chairman of the board of the NDE. “The minister is the chairman of the board of NDE. So when you say NDE should go back and bring their plan, it will come back to me because I am still the chairman of the NDE.
So I have quoted the position of the law and the presidential mandate. “Beyond the general mandate, the President also specifically instructed me by memo in May this year to go and supervise the preparation and execution of this project. How can you supervise the preparation and execution of the project without your final approval? The final approval lies on my table.
“We cannot stay here in Abuja and select 1,000 persons per each local government. So if you look at section 15(1), it said the minister shall constitute committees for the NDE. The director general of NDE has no such powers to constitute committees by law.
“Just like I said, if the President says I should step aside and allow them hijack the process because the game as you have seen today is simply that they are conniving with certain functionaries of government to design and hijack the programme against the wishes of Nigerians and that is what I have been against and I will continue to stand by that.” Meanwhile, the Director General of NDE, Dr. Nasiru Mohammed Ladan, thanked the National Assembly for stepping into the matter, adding that he had executed similar programmes and wondered why this one was different.