President Muhammadu Buhari has thrown his weight behind the bid by the executive arm of government to take full charge of the recruitment of 774,000 young Nigerians under the Special Public Works Programme.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), who disclosed this yesterday, said he had got the nod of the president to go ahead with the programme despite the stiff opposition from the National Assembly.
“I have the instructions of my boss, Mr. President, to proceed with the supervision of the preparation for the execution of the programme in accordance with the law,” Keyamo said.
When asked if he would proceed despite the suspension of the programme by the National Assembly, the minister simply told New Telegraph that “President Buhari has given me fresh approval to go ahead with the programme.”
The approval is being interpreted as a snub on the National Assembly, which had been wrestling with Keyamo for the control of the programme.
The Federal Government, on Tuesday, confirmed that the programme suspended by the National Assembly has kicked off.
The central government, in its official Twitter handle, stated that: “The Special Public Works Programme of the Federal Government has kicked off nationwide.
The State Selection Committees have been inaugurated and have commenced work.
Find the names and contact details of members of your state’s committee here: https:// specialpublicworks.gov.ng/ site/ #NigeriaSPW.” The minister had been at loggerheads with the National Assembly Joint Committee on Labour and Employment whose members had demanded that they must be actively involved in the programme.
The joint committee, which comprised lawmakers from both the Senate and House of Representatives, had directed Keyamo to hands off the programme and allow the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to drive it.
The lawmakers had also directed the minister to suspend the programme until the parliament was fully briefed on the modalities for its implementation.
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 NDE to immediately take over the implementation of the programme from planning stage to its execution.
Talks between the lawmakers and Keyamo broke down about two weeks ago during a meeting to discuss the issue.
The disagreement resulted in the minister staging a walkout, even as the meeting degenerated into a shouting match. The lawmakers had accused Keyamo of shutting them out of the programme, while Keyamo also accused them of trying to hijack his job.
President Buhari had, in April, approved the Special Public Works Programme designed to provide jobs for 1,000 persons in each of the 774 local government areas across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of the country. The programme was conceived as part of efforts towards mitigating the effect of COVID-19 on the economy.
It was targeted at the thousands of skilled and semi-skilled Nigerians who have no jobs, thereby reducing the high rate of unemployment in the country.
The scheme was expected to provide modest stipends (N20,000 monthly for three months) for the intended beneficiaries who are expected to undertake roads rehabilitation works and social housing construction, urban and rural sanitation, health extension and other critical services.
The programme, which will cost N52 billion, is domiciled with NDE, a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment. In Ebonyi, the state government yesterday inaugurated a selection committee for 13,000 indigenes needed for the Federal Government Special Public Works Programme.
Chief Edward Nkwegu, Chairman of Ebonyi Federal Government Extended Special Public Works Programme (ESPWP), at the event, affirmed that 13,000 indigenes of Ebonyi would benefit from the programme slated to begin in October.
Nkwegu asked the ESPWP selection committee to ensure equity during the selection exercise, which started on June 29 and is billed to last for three weeks.
He said that the setting up of the committee was in line with section 16(1) of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) law which empowered the minister of labour and employment to do so.
According to him, only the minister, upon the instruction of the president, can stop the committee’s work.
Nkwegu noted that the 13,000 beneficiaries would spread across the 13 local government areas of the state where 1,000 persons would be drawn from each LGA