The recent altercation between Federal lawmakers and Minister of State, Labour, Employment and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, over the modalities for recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians for the special public works programme under the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), is not necessary. Rather than the face-off, the minister and the lawmakers should have amicably resolved the issue through dialogue. It is inelegant that the recruitment exercisemeant to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on some Nigerians is causing a row between two arms of government.
Under the arrangement, not less than 1,000 Nigerians would be employed for a period of three months in each of the 774 local government areas at a monthly stipend of N20,000 each. The programme is expected to take off in October this year.
It is sad that the minister and the lawmakers should exchange words over the composition of the committee for the supervision of the recruitment exercise. The alleged attempt to hijack the process of the recruitments by some people in order to score some political mileage is regrettable. While the lawmakers have the right to carry out their oversight functions on what the executive is doing as regards the modalities for the recruitment exercise, we do not think that it should lead to the face-off between them and the minister. However, it is laudable that the Minister of Labour, Employment and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has apologised to the lawmakers over the ugly incident. With that apology, we believe that both arms of government can further dialogue on the issue and settle it amicably. The earlier postponement of the exercise by the lawmakers should not have been contemplated at all. Doing so would not augur well for the poverty alleviation programme. It would also have denied them the means of overcoming the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We still think that whatever may have been responsible for the disagreement between the minister and the lawmakers should have been handled with maturity. As we live in an open society, there is need for accountability and transparency in the conduct of government’s affairs. What should matter most in this case is to ensure that the recruitment exercise is dutifully carried out without the unnecessary flexing of muscles.
Nigeria’s political officials should be mindful of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economic wellbeing of many Nigerians. They need to be more concerned on how to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty as President Muhammadu Buhari promised. A recent report of COVID-19 impact monitoring survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicated that the impacts of the pandemic on employment and income of Nigerians had been widespread. It revealed rising job losses by Nigerians. Out of the 1,950 households surveyed on a nationally representative sample, 42 per cent of the respondents, who were working before the outbreak, had lost their jobs by early June. It added that a high rate of households reported income loss since mid-March 2020, with 79 per cent posting decreased income. The Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) operators were among the worst hit with some of them closing shops and their employees automatically losing their jobs.
The recent warning by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led Committee on Economic Sustainability Plan that about 39.4 million people may lose their jobs by the end of 2020 should serve as a wake-up call on the government to create more jobs.
Available statistics show that 82.9million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty, while four out of 10 Nigerians have real per capita expenditures below N137, 430 per year. The falling prices of crude oil in the international market and rising security challenges across the country may further heighten the poverty index.
We believe that the N20,000 stipend a month for the 774,000 unskilled Nigerians means a lot to them and their dependants. The NDE should be encouraged to handle the selection process in an open and transparent manner. The jobs must not be politicised. We urge the government to ensure that only those that merit the jobs are considered in the recruitment exercise.
It is good that the president has enjoined government officials to desist from dropping his name to achieve personal objectives. The face-off over the 774,000 jobs shows how bad things have become in the country. We urge the government to explore pragmatic ways to ensure that Nigerians are gainfully employed. Let it create the enabling environment for Nigerians to create jobs instead of searching for elusive jobs.