*Minister states his own side of narrative, insists only Buhari can tinker with exercise
Minister of state for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo, engaged in a shouting with members of the national assembly on Tuesday over the planned recruitment of 774,000 people by the Federal Government.
In April, Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, had announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had given approval for the employment of 774,000 Nigerians.
Those recruited would be engaged in a special works programme domiciled in the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
On Tuesday, Keyamo appeared before a joint committee of the senate and house of representatives on labour alongside Nasiru Ladan, NDE Director-General.
The NDE DG was asked to speak on the criteria used in appointing a 20-member committee for the implementation of the programme and Ladan said he only knew eight members of the committee.
The lawmakers then turned to Keyamo and asked a series of questions, suggesting that he had taken over the programme from the NDE.
At this point, the tension in the room escalated and the proceedings became rowdy with Keyamo and some lawmakers shouting on the top of their voices.
The lawmakers then opted for a closed-session but Keyamo disagreed.
While shouting, Keyamo said: “How can you expose corruption without the cameras? How can, how can you expose it? I must respond to what he said. You cannot say something and I won’t respond. It is wrong.”
Then some of the lawmakers responding altogether in chorus, said: “Go go, get out. Where is the sergeant-at-arms to walk him?”
He was subsequently ordered out of the hearing room.
Speaking with journalists outside the hearing room, Keyamo alleged that the lawmakers were trying to take charge of the recruitment exercise which his ministry supervises.
In May, Keyamo said up to 10 percent slots of the beneficiaries of the programme in each state would be allotted to political office holders “like our distinguished senators, honourable members, ministers and governors”.
But on Monday while inaugurating the committee, the minister said some politicians are trying to blackmail him over the recruitment.
A few hours later the Minister of State released a statement detailing his side.
The statement reads: “Today, in obedience to their invitation, I appeared before the Joint Committees on Labour of both the Senate and the House. The Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members sought to be briefed on the implementation of the Special Public Works Programme so far.
However, there was a misunderstanding between us when they questioned why I did not privately submit the program to them for vetting before taking certain steps. They suggested that they ought to have an input on how the programme should be implemented. In other words, they sought to control the programme as to who gets what, where and how.
However, I insisted that I could not surrender the programme to their control since their powers under the constitution does not extend to that. They insisted on a closed door session.
“At this point, I remarked that it was only fair for me to respond to their position before the press, since their own position was also made public. In any case, I remarked that the Nigerian people deserve to know the details of the execution of this all-important programme.
“I was then asked to apologize for insisting on a public interaction and I said there was nothing to apologize about, because their powers to expose corruption provided for in section 88 of the Constitution cannot be exercised in private. As such, there was no need to apologize by insisting on a Constitutional provision. Even their Rules that may provide for private hearings on public matters cannot override the provisions of the Constitution. I was then permitted to leave. I took a bow and left. I NEVER walked out on the respected Committees as they may want to bend the narrative.
“After I left, I understand that the Joint Committees purportedly suspended the work of the Selection Committees nationwide until they decide how the programme should be run and who should be in those Committees. My opinion is that it is tantamount to challenging the powers of Mr. President.
“I regret to say that their powers under section 88 of the 1999 Constitution is only limited to investigations, but NOT TO GIVE ANY DIRECTIVE TO THE EXECUTIVE.
“A Committee or Committees of both Houses do not even have powers to pass binding Resolutions. They can only make recommendations to Plenary. In this case, even Plenary CANNOT give DIRECTIVES to the Executive.
“All my life, I have fought for good governance and constitutional democracy. I will not come into government and be intimidated to abandon those principles. I will rather leave this assignment, if Mr. President so directs than compromise the jobs meant for ordinary Nigerians who have no Godfathers or who are not affiliated to any political party.
“I therefore, respectfully further direct all the Committees set up nationwide made up of CAN, NSCIA, NURTW, Market Women, CSOS, Youth Organisations, respected traditional rulers, etc to proceed with their work unhindered. Only Mr. President can stop their work.
FESTUS KEYAMO, SAN, FCIArb(UK)
Hon. Minister of State.”