Fred Itua, Abuja
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, said the Senate would only allow the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), not the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity, to handle the planned recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians in the ongoing Special Public Works Project.
President Muhammadu Buhari had domiciled the project under the Labour, Employment and Productivity Ministry, with Festus Keyamo, minister of state in the ministry, assigned to supervise the exercise.
Keyamo, who appeared before a joint National Assembly Committee on Labour last week, sparked controversy when he refused to respond to questions from lawmakers on how he intended to recruit beneficiaries from local councils in the country for the project.
Keyamo told the lawmakers that they had no right to question the modalities to be adopted by the Federal Government in the execution of the exercise and also alleged that the lawmakers wanted to blackmail him. He claimed the lawmakers had no constitutional power to query him.
Following the altercation, the Senate issued a statement announcing the suspension of the exercise, saying, until details sought by the lawmakers were provided by the minister, the programme would not continue.
Lawan, at a press conference yesterday, said there was no going back on the position of the upper legislative chamber. He also hinged the refusal to allow Keyamo and the Labour, Employment and Productivity Ministry to handle the project on the ground that the National Assembly had approved N52 billion for the National Directorate of Employment to administer the public works project and not the Ministry of Labour.
“The National Assembly consciously and patriotically passed the request of the executive for N52 billion to undertake the programme on public works across the country, where 1,000 youths will be employed in each local government and that will give you 774,000. That was an approval by the National Assembly in the revised budget request of Mr. President.
“When the National Assembly was to pass that request, we were conscious that National Directorate of Employment would be the agency to implement the programme. We know NDE has the capacity to implement the programme. So, that programme is an NDE programme approved by the National Assembly.
“The committee resolved that the programme be suspended until such explanations are provided on how this programme will be implemented. We stand by that, until the executive arm of government comes to explain how they will implement that programme. We passed the budget for NDE to go and implement because it has the capacity. Our purpose is not just to approve money. Only NDE will implement this programme. The NDE, led by the Ministry of Labour, will have to come and explain. It would be unfair to say that those of in the legislature and executive are not on the same page because of an action by someone in the executive,” he said.
Lawan also stated that it was within the purview of the committees on labour to demand an explanation on the process and procedure through which the programme would be implemented: “So, our joint committee was right. The committee was right to ask the questions. We are meant to interrogate the processes through which such programmes will be implemented.”