…Minister accuses lawmakers of attempt to hijack 774,000 SPW recruitment process
…Dares NASS, orders States’ c’ttees to proceed with SPW recruitment exercise
…Lawmakers walk out Keyamo for unruly attitude
Hell was let loose on Tuesday as members of the National Assembly Joint Committee on Labour and the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Mr. Festus Keyamo, engaged in shouting match over modalities for recruitment of the 774, 000 Nigerians into the Special Public Works in the rural areas.
The hot exchange of words which lasted for about 30 minutes, culminated into the committee members walking the Minister out of the interactive session for refusing to tender apology as demanded.
The Minister as well accused the legislators of wanting to hijack the programme.
Keyamo was at the National Assembly to present to the joint committee led by Senator Godiya Akwashiki (APC Nasarawa North) modalities of recruitment for the programme and trouble started when the lawmakers discovered that they were not factored into the process by the minister.
In his submissions on modalities for recruitment of 1,000 youths per each of the 744 local government councils in Nigeria, he listed the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), market women association, traditional rulers, youth organisations and civil society organisations as pressure groups to be used as channels of recruitment at the grassroots.
One of the lawmakers, Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP Rivers South), pointedly, asked the Minister to explain to the committee on how performance indicators would be determined since lawmakers as representatives of the people are excluded from the recruitment process.
The Minister in his response said since the programme will take off in October this year, all the channels of recruitments to be decided upon by 20- man committee per each state, would serve as mechanism for the performance indicators.
Angered by the response, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Godiya Akwashiki picked holes in the submission of the Minister and that of Director General of National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Nasir Ladan Argungun.
According to him, while the Minister mentioned 20 groups to be used as channels for the recruitment, the NDE DG, said he was only aware of 8, meaning that the ministry is hijacking the N52 billion programme from NDE, originally saddled with it, going by Appropriation made in the 2020 budget.
He there after solicited for the session to go into closed door, which was vehemently kicked against by the Minister who said, “I came here for open session and not closed session”.
When told that he cannot dictate to them on how the session would be run, Keyamo banged the table by shouting that he won’t go into closed door session with anybody and that accusation can not be levelled against him in the open and there after, come and make explanations secretly.
Irked by the Minister’s outburst, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe moved motion that the Minister should apologise for tackling the committee over rule of proceedings.
Oloriegbe’s motion which was adopted by the committee, however worsened the situation when he was asked to tender apology by the committee Chairman, to which he said no, having not committed any offence or made derogatory statement against the lawmakers.
It was at that point that almost every member of the committee stood up, shouting, go! go! go!, to the Minister if he cannot apologise.
Pointedly , the Committee chairman, Godiya Akwashiki , by way of resolution told the Minister that based on decision taken by the committee, if he cannot apologise, he should leave, to which Keyamo responded by storming out of the session.
Speaking to journalists after his exit, Keyamo said: “What they did not allow me to say inside? I will stay outside. Today’s invitation to come here was for an interactive session I came here.
“The inter-ministerial committee recommended 20 man committee and we approved it. Meanwhile they are comfortable with the eight which are clearly stated like Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Jammatu Nasir Islam (JNI) and others.
“The others are youth organisations and we cannot list youth organisations because from state to state there are different youth organisations depending on the peculiarity of the state.
“The background to this was that a couple of days ago hey started mounting pressure on me that I must bring the list of those to select the 1000 persons from all the local government to them for them to direct me as to what to do from state to state.
“The chairman insisted I must come to them privately for them to hand over to me certain instructions as to how this programme will be across the country.
“I said no that would be sharing the powers of the President and that I can only be answerable for what I have done by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution.
“They can only investigate the programme, that cannot direct it “.
However, the federal lawmakers refuted the allegation levelled against them by the Minister as explained Senator Akwashiki in his damage control speech.
He said: “As a National Assembly our main duty is to check the executive arm of government body. The Appropriation Act that allows for spending federation account has said that this money should be spent by the National Directorate of Employment under the ministry.
“After all that has been said we asked him to apologise to the committee because we have the rules of proceeding here and that we are all in agreement that if he does not apologise to us he can excuse himself or we suspend this programme of the Federal government upon which he left.
“We invited the two ministers – the senior minister and the junior minister – the Director General of the National Directorate of Employment and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Labour and Employment to come and brief us – a joint committee of the Senate and House of Representatives – on what is happening regarding to the Special Works under NDE.
“Before we started, we asked the Director General NDE and the Minister to brief us on the pilot selected states which is about eight that the President selected because it is because that programme succeeded that gave Mr President interest or attention to say that the entire country – that is 1000 per the 774 Local Governments should be recruited.
“Come back to the N52 billion approved under NDE, we now asked the Minister of State because the senior minister is not here, that he should explain to us how far they have gone because we read on the pages of newspapers this morning that a 20-man Selection Committee from each state was inaugurated yesterday and that they have are chairman and vice chairman and that the State Coordinator of the NDE is the Secretary. We only read that on the pages of newspapers this (Tuesday) morning.
“We asked him to brief us how he came about that Committee. He now said it was a tripartite Committee set up by Mr President that comprised of eight Ministries but we disagreed with him on that because we are lawmakers and we try to work always within the ambit of the law for the implementation of whatever we have for the Nigerian people.
“We said that this money (N52 billion) has been approved under NDE. It is even in the budget. So for him to say it is eight ministries that are involved in this we disagreed with him.
“Thank God that the the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health is here. There is another money under COVID-19 intervention that has been channelled to the Ministry for Health.
“So we said that is not the issue. How did he come about 20-man selection Committee? Because if you did not get it right with the selection committee, I want to tell you that this programme is going to be a failure.
“Nobody is requesting for any slot from him and he cannot blackmail us “.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has dared the members of the Joint Committees on Labour of both the Senate and the House of Representative by ordering the States’ selection committees of the Special Public Works (SPW) programme to carry on with the recruitment process unhindered.
Keyamo’s order followed the Joint Committees’ decision to suspend the work of the Selection Committees nationwide until they decide how the programme should be run.
The Minister in a statement issued on Tuesday, explained that the problem started when the committee questioned why he did not privately submit the program to them for vetting before taking certain steps, suggesting that they ought to have an input on how the programme should be implemented.
He said: “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 apologise for insisting on a public interaction and I said there was nothing to apologise 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.”
Citing the powers of the National Assembly members under section 88 of the 1999 Constitution, Keyamo stressed that their powers were 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.” Keyamo said.