President Muhammadu Buhari has given Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, the nod to proceed with the execution of the special public works programme for 774,000 Nigerians.
The Federal Government had set out plans to recruit 774, 000 youths under the Special Public Works Programme, but which was opposed by the National Assembly over disagreement on the modalities for its execution, consequent upon which the parliament moved for the suspension of the programme.
However, Keyamo, on Tuesday, confirmed that the President had directed him to continue with the exercise, saying, “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.”
The unemployed Nigerian are to be recruited by the Federal Government under the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) for three months beginning from October to December.
During Keyamo’s first appearance before the NASS Committee conducting an investigating hearing, on June 30, the lawmakers had accused the Minister of trying to hijack the scheme from the National Directorate of Employment, which they referr to as the implementing agency of the project.
The investigative hearing, members comprised of the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on Labour also had sought to find out the method of selection of a 20-man committee from each state for the programme.
As a result, the committee through the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, Employment, and Productivity, Mr. Godiya Akwashiki, asked Keyamo to explain why NDE was not being carried along, and the process he is adopting for the recruitment.
But the drama began, as Keyamo, in his response said an Act that established the NDE gave his ministry powers to oversee the affairs and programmes of the agency.
The minister had gone further to inform the lawmakers that he had inaugurated a 20-member committee to implement the recruitment process and that the committee had started work.
Keyamo also informed the committee that the Director-General of the NDE, Nasiru Ladan, is a member of the committee.
However, when Ladan was asked by the committee to defend himself, the NDE boss said the minister was in a better position to answer all questions relating to the N52 billion budgeted for the recruitments of 774,000 Nigerians under the NDE.
The minister had further defended his action as he said his ministry had been told to supervise the recruitments by the President Buhari, which lawmakers disagreed with and this was followed by a heated argument.
But while the session became a rowdy one, the committee decided to invite Keyamo into a closed-door discussion, so the media won’t gain assess to proceedings, but the minister refused, insisting that further discussions be held in the presence of journalists.
For his refusal, the lawmakers told Keyamo to apologise to the committee, but the call which the minister ignored.
Consequently, a shouting match began between the two parties, after which he was asked to leave the meeting since he refused to apologise to the committee members.
The lawmakers’ claim was that Keyamo had no right to direct the committee on the pattern to conduct its proceedings.
Keyamo’s refusal to apologise to the committee after another round of shouting match that lasted 30 minutes forced the lawmakers to walk him out of the National Assembly.
Keyamo, as he left the investigative hearing, told journalists that the grouse of the lawmakers was because his refusal to allow them own the process, adding that they equally wanted more than the 15 per cent job slots allocated to them.
Keyamo, who accused the lawmakers of seeking to control the implementation of the programme, argued that the lawmakers had no power to give directives to the executive under section 88 of the 1999 constitution.
“I only insisted on the provision of the constitution; I insist that they have no power under section 88 of the 1999 constitution. Their powers under section 88 of the 1999 Constitution is only limited to investigations, but not to give any directive to the executive,” Keyamo said.
But Akwashiki, who presided over the joint National Assembly panel, denied the two allegations levelled against them by Keyamo, as he alleged that Keyamo was only trying to build a political structure of 1, 000 youths in each of the 774 local government areas across the country with the 774,000 jobs without the involvement of the NDE.