OrderPaperToday – A gale of accusations and counter-accusations have continued to trail a rowdy session between members of the National Assembly and the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Mr. Festus Keyamo, over an alleged attempt to hijack a social work programme of the federal government.
Following a raw deal with the legislators which led to his being walked out of a meeting, the minister revealed how the lawmakers were planning to allegedly hijack the recruitment process for the 774,000 jobs scheme.
Keyamo was earlier invited on Tuesday by the joint committees of both federal chambers on Labour and Productivity to explain the criteria used to select a 20-man Committee to implement the jobs scheme under the special public works in the rural areas programme.
The session however turned rowdy as both parties traded words heatedly. While the federal lawmakers queried the fact that they were not consulted for the selection in spite of being representatives of the people, Keyamo accused them of trying to take over the process.
This resulted to him being walked out of the venue after refusing to apologise to the lawmakers as demanded by the latter.
In an interview with journalists shortly after he stormed out of the meeting, Mr. Keyamo explained how the chairman, senate committee on labour and productivity, Godiya Akwashiki, had allegedly requested that lawmakers be consulted in the recruitment process.
He 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.
“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 youths organisations depending on the peculiarity of the state .
“The background to this was that a couple of days ago. They 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 (Akwashiki) insisted I must come to them privately for them to hand over to me certain instructions as to how this program will be across the country.
“I said no (because) 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 but cannot direct it.”
However, in a reaction to the allegations raised by Mr. Keyamo, Sen. Akwashiki denied any lawmaker requested for slots informing that the Minister was trying to blackmail them.
The Senator spoke to journalists after the botched meeting, saying: “As a National Assembly our main duty is to check the executive arm of government; 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 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 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 (N52billion) 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.”