…Keyamo’s outburst, display of rascality – Sen. Ubah
…You lack such powers, Minister replies NASS
By Ezeocha Nzeh (Group Politics Editor)
After a brawl with the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, the National Assembly on Wednesday announced the suspension of the Special Public Works programme under the National Directorate of Employment.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, had approved the engagement of 774, 000 Nigerians under the scheme to cushion the effects of the ravaging COVID – 19 pandemic.
Through the exercise, which the National Assembly had already earmarked about N52b in the 2020 appropriated budget to bankroll, 1000 Nigerians would be recruited in each of the 774 local government areas of the country, to earn N20,000 on a monthly basis for the palliative job which is expected to last for three months.
The programme was expected to take off in October this year.
But the National Assembly joinf Committee on Labour and Employment on Wednesday said the programme has been suspended following the disagreement between it and the Minister of State for Employment, Labour and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, on Tuesday.
Spokesperson for the Senate, Ajibola Basiru, who announced the suspension of the programme at a press conference in Abuja, said the National Assembly has summoned the Minister in charge of the Ministry to appear before the federal legislature, to explain the recruitment modalities.
He said, “In view of the foregoing, the implementation of the programme shall be on hold pending proper briefing of the National Assembly by the Minister of Labour and Productivity.”
It will be recalled that the federal lawmakers on Tuesday, walked out the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, following his refusal to apologise after the legislators accused him of raising his voice against them.
The incident happened at an investigative hearing organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity.
Members of the joint panel had summoned the Minister and the Director General of the National Directorate of Employment, Mr. Nasiru Ladan Argungu, to brief them on steps so far taken to recruit 774, 000 across the country.
Trouble started when lawmakers queried Keyamo for allegedly undertaking lopsided recruitment without the active involvement of the National Directorate of Employment, the agency that got N52bn approval from the National Assembly to implement the programme.
Keyamo at the meeting accused the lawmakers of wanting to sabotage the recruitment process despite receiving 15 per cent jobs slots.
The argument that ensued afterwards, led to a shouting match between both parties which later degenerated to the forceful exit of Keyamo from the meeting
Keyamo’s outburst, display of rascality – Sen. Ubah
Anambra South senator, Ifeanyi Ubah, had described the outburst of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, at the National Assembly on Tuesday, as a display of rascality.
The minister, who wondered why the minister would think the lawmakers want to hijack the recruitment process, stated during a press briefing at the National Assembly on Wednesday that the duty of the legislature is to check and have an oversight of the executive.
Keyamo and the National Assembly joint Committee on Labour and Employment had a clash during a meeting, over the process of implementing the federal 774,000 jobs, which his office is cordinating
The meeting was aimed at discussing the progress of the planned employment of 774,000 Nigerians by the federal government.
The National Assembly had in the 2020 budget appropriated N52 billion for the Special Public Works Programme aimed at employing 774,000 citizens, a thousand from each of the 774 local government areas in the country.
Addressing journalists, Sen. Ubah said it is only logical for the lawmakers to request how the distribution of employment is being handled.
“As a representative of my constituents, it is something worthwhile for us to request how the distribution of employment to Nigerians is handled by an appointee of the executive who is not even the substantive minister.
“I felt it was a very bad display of rascality. I don’t know what a senator will be doing with a job of N20,000 and N30,000, if not to make sure that it is given to people in the constituency. If those jobs are given to us it will be shared equally or a percentage of it should be given to senators, we will take it back to the people we are representing.
“But giving it to people who will go and mortgage it and sell it or hand it to an agency that will market it is totally unacceptable to the Nigerian Senate. I felt so bad that I was not there yesterday and I’m speaking as a senator representing Anambra south. Such rascality should be highly condemned by Nigerians,” he said.
You lack such powers, Keyamo replies NASS
But the Minister had charged his already inaugurated committees at the state level to disregard to suspension order and continue with their programmes
Keyamo in a statement her issued in response of the suspension maintained that National Assembly lack powers to suspend the programme, which he noted is from the executive arm of government.
The statement, which charged all state committees to proceed with their works unhindered read, “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.”