Fred Itua and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The Senate, yesterday, said it was not backing down on its earlier position that the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), not the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity, should handle the recruitment of 774,000 persons across the 774 local government areas in the country as part of the Special Public Works Programme.
It, however, toned down its earlier position that the exercise should be suspended pending the resolution of administrative issues by the handlers of the exercise.
At a resumed sitting, senators who took turns to speak, following a motion moved by Opeyemi Bamidele, said the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, could be jailed for hijacking the recruitment process, which was originally designed to be handled by the NDE.
Keyamo has been on the war path with the National Assembly over the implementation of the Special Public Works Programme. While the parliament has ordered a halt of the programme, Keyamo said he had the permission of President Muhammadu Buhari to continue.
Senators Bala Ibn Na’Alla, Godiya Akwashiki and others called on the Senate to invoke the relevant constitutional provisions to deal decisively with erring appointees of President Buhari.
He specifically named Keyamo and said he could be jailed for tampering with the Appropriations Act, a creation of the law.
Bamidele, in his lead debate, based his argument on the fact that the approval given through a budgetary provision was for the NDE and not the supervising ministry. He added that the NDE, not thye ministry of labour, would be held responsible, if the exercise did not go well. He said proper oversight functions should be carried out by the relevant committees.
In his concluding remarks, Lawan said the National Assembly would be on the same page with the executive. Declaring that the harmonious relationship between the two arms would continue to flourish.
Like the Senate, the House of Representatives has also insisted that the Special Public Works Programme must be implemented by the NDE, under the supervision of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, as stipulated by extant laws.
According to the House, the office of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, occupied by Keyamo, which is saddled with supervision of the programme, was alien to the 1999 Constitution ( as amended).
Consequently, the House urged the Ministry of Finance to only release funds for the implementation of the programme only if such implementation complied with due process, the Appropriation Act 2020, and the NDE Act.
This followed the adoption of a motion jointly sponsored by the deputy minority leader, Toby Okechukwu, and the chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, on the “need to uphold the National Directorate of Employment Act in the implementation of the Special Public Works Programme” at yesterday’s plenary.