*We II’ go to AGF for interpretation, Keyamo insists
By Ignatius Okorocha
Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Sen. Chris Ngige on Tuesday, apologised to the National Assembly for the altercations between the junior minister in the ministry, Festus Keyamo and members of National Assembly joint Committees on Labour over the 774, 000 Special Public Works of the Federal Government.
This was as the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan has reiterated his earlier warning that Federal Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity should have no hand in the planning and execution of the project, stressing that its sole responsibility of the National Directorate of Employment to execute.
Ngige had tendered the apology at a meeting with the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, principal officers of the Senate and members of the National Assembly joint Committees on Labour.
Recall that members of the National Assembly had on Tuesday, June 30, walked out the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Mr Festus Keyamo, during an investigative hearing over the 774,000 jobs offer of the Federal Government.
Ngige said,”We deeply regret the incident that happened at the last visit, the altercations that followed 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 fast track 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, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said that the National Assembly had the mandate and jurisdiction to accept or reject executive request.
“When Mr President presented the request for the appropriation of N52 billion for the public works, the National Assembly committees scrutinised and recommended to the plenary of the two chambers; the same request, without any change, recommending the passage of N52 billion for Public Works.
“The National Assembly passed that request feeling convinced that this one programme that is needed in this country especially at this time.
“Our people need some kind of support especially the youth. So this is one programme we can even own in the national assembly.
“How we wish we have more than N52 billion for this programme. But we also conscious of one thing, who should implement the programme.”
Lawan further said that the ministry should have no role more than supervision of this programme.
“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.
“This national assembly can support you very well but it can stand tough if its will is tested.
“We want our committees to work with your ministry to implement this programme.
“All previous actions are null and void. We don’t recognise them. You and your committee engage and start afresh,” Lawan said.
Meanwhile at the meeting with the joint committee on Labour and Employment and Productivity, Chairman of the committee, Sen. Godiya Akwashiki suspended further discussions on the matter and directed Director General of National Directorate of Employment, Mr. Nasiru Ladan present the committee with a fresh working plan/ modalities for recruitment of the 77,000 jobs for the youths next week Monday for approval.
According to him previous arrangement by the Ministry on the programme remains suspended and null and void.
Reacting to the development, the embattled Minister of state on Labour, Employment and Productivity, Festus Keyamo said as the chairman of NDE there was no way the programme would bypass his table to the National Assembly for approval.
“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 when you say go back and do your work plan and come, are you telling the director general to break the law, are telling the director general to disobey his appointee which is the president? Are you telling the director General to disobey his immediate boss which is the minister? That is where we are on this issue.”
Keyamo further also threatened to drag the matter to the Attorney General of the Federation for interpretation rather than bow to the lawmakers pressure to bypass his office and transfer the planning and execution of the programme to NDE.
“So,I will go back to my employer which is the President. The president will give directives, the directives as to the execution of a project by the national assembly is not binding on me. This is a great constitutional issue that will go to the Attorney General at the end of the day for interpretation,” he maintained.