The relationship between the National Assembly members and Festus Keyamo, minister of state for labour and employment went messy on tuesday following an uproar that exhumed in the meeting.
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774,000 jobs controversy: Gbajabiamila moves to settle Keyamo, lawmakers
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has vowed to resolve the ongoing rift between the Minister of Labour (State), Festus Keyamo and the National Assembly.
It would be recalled that the minister had a stormy session with the members of the joint committee on Labour during an interactive session on the 774,000 Special Public Works Programme.
Gbajabiamila in his remarks at the public hearing conducted by the House Public account committee chaired by Oluwole Oke on the National School Feeding Program of the federal government urged the committee to avoid the repeat of what happened on Tuesday.
“We have to make sure that what happened yesterday in the Senate does not repeat here. It is unfortunate that the National Assembly is not allowed to operate as it should. However, I want to assure you that the matter would be resolved within 24.”
Meanwhile, the Senate has announced the suspension of the recruitment exercise and summoned the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige and the junior minister.
The Senate Spokesperson, Sen Ajibola Bashiru made the announcement while briefing newsmen at the National Assembly.
“In view of the foregoing, the implementation of the programme shall be on hold pending proper briefing of the National Assembly by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, ” he stated.
Keyamo: Lawan, Gbajabiamila urged to act on 774,000 jobs controversy
The Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch (CFTIW) has lamented the furore over planned recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians in the Special Public Works programme.
Umar Yakubu, the Executive Director, in a statement, urged Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to urgently intervene.
The activist warned that the unemployed citizens eagerly waiting to be engaged were at the receiving end of the stalemate between the executive and the legislature.
On Tuesday, Festus Keyamo, Minister of State, Labour and Employment, accused federal lawmakers of trying to control the recruitment.
On Wednesday, the National Assembly stopped the employment process indefinitely.
Reacting, Yakubu said while the legislature remains a critical part of democracy, series of allegations and interference in some steps taken by the executive were worrisome.
He pointed out that there exist several media reports of members “using arm-twisting means to corner contracts, obtain employment slots and demand personal favours from Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).”
The activists decried how some MDAs “periodically fund both official and unofficial activities of some legislators”.
“Just this year, members have been accused of getting most of the employment slots in ‘juicy’ agencies, shelving standard employment procedure.
“For example, 261 slots out of 400 contracts given by Rural Electrification Agency were alleged to have been cornered for some members. Same goes for contracts at ministries and parastatals.”
CFTIW expressed disgust that some lawmakers were insisting on a percentage of the 774,000 jobs as revealed by Keyamo.
Yakubu noted that in most of the oversight functions and investigations by the federal legislature, there have been few cases where public officers were indicted, or any form of punishment meted out.
“Most of the investigations have yielded no positive results. So, the monitoring activities have become suspicious, because citizens believe that they are just a ploy to intimidate and harass MDAs for personal benefit.”
The statement advised Lawan and Gbajabiamila to ensure that “the actions of a few do not taint the integrity of such a critical institution as the National Assembly.”
774,000 jobs: Lawmakers walk Keyamo out of n’assembly after heated exchange
Festus Keyamo, minister of state for labour and employment, engaged in a shouting with members of the national assembly on Tuesday over the planned recruitment of 774,000 people by the federal government.
In April, Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget and national planning, had announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had given approval for the employment of 774,000 Nigerians.
Those recruited would be engaged in a special works programme domiciled in the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
On Tuesday, Keyamo appeared before a joint committee of the senate and house of representatives on labour alongside Nasiru Ladan, NDE director-general.
The NDE DG was asked to speak on the criteria used in appointing a 20-member committee for the implementation of the programme. and Ladan said he only knew eight members of the committee.
The lawmakers then turned to Keyamo and asked a series of questions, suggesting that he had taken over the programme from the NDE.
At this point, the tension in the room escalated and the proceedings became rowdy with Keyamo and some lawmakers shouting on the top of their voices.
The lawmakers then opted for a closed-session but Keyamo disagreed.
While shouting, Keyamo said: “How can you expose corruption without the cameras? How can, how can you expose it? I must respond to what he said. You cannot say something and I won’t respond. It is wrong.”
Then some of the lawmakers responding altogether in chorus, said: “Go go, get out. Where is the sergeant-at-arms to walk him?”
He was subsequently ordered out of the hearing room.
Speaking with journalists outside the hearing room, Keyamo alleged that the lawmakers were trying to take charge of the recruitment exercise which his ministry supervises.
In May, Keyamo said up to 10 percent slots of the beneficiaries of the programme in each state would be allotted to political office holders “like our distinguished senators, honourable members, ministers and governors”.
But on Monday while inaugurating the committee, the minister said some politicians are trying to blackmail him over the recruitment.
774,000 jobs: Keyamo dares n’assembly, asks the committees he inaugurated to continue working
Festus Keyamo, minister of state for labour and employment, has accused the joint national assembly committees on labour of challenging President Muhammadu Buhari.
Reacting to the decision of the lawmakers to suspend some committees he inaugurated on Monday, Keyamo said the legislators acted beyond their powers.
While inaugurating the committees made up of 20 people in each state, Keyamo had said they would be in charge of engaging 774,000 citizens in a special works programme implemented by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
But at the national assembly on Tuesday, he engaged in a shouting match with the lawmakers who faulted the recruitment exercise.
While the lawmakers had accused Keyamo of hijacking the programme from NDE, the minister hit back, saying they were the ones trying to take over the project.
In a statement after the incident, Keyamo said the national assembly joint committees do not have powers to make binding resolutions and that they could not direct the executive even in plenary.
“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,” the lawyer said.
“My opinion is that it is tantamount to challenging the powers of Mr. President.
“I regret to say that their powers under section 88 of the 1999 constitution is 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.
The Minister of State, Labour and Employment, has declared that the National Assembly cannot stop the planned recruitment of Nigerians.
One thousand citizens are to be employed from each of the 774,000 local government areas in Nigeria.
In a statement on Tuesday, Keyamo said in obedience to their invitation, he appeared before the Joint Committees on Labour of both the Senate and the House.
The meeting was for briefing on the implementation of the Special Public Works Programme.
The minister said there was a misunderstanding when they questioned why he did not privately submit the program to them for vetting before taking certain steps.
Keyamo said the lawmakers suggested that they ought to have input on how the programme should be implemented.
“In other words, they sought to control the programme as to who gets what, where and how. 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.”
Keyamo said he remarked that it was only fair for him to respond to their position before the press, since their own position was also made public.
“I was then asked to apologize for insisting on a public interaction and I said there was nothing to apologize 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.”
Keyamo said National Assembly powers under section 88 of the 1999 Constitution are only limited to investigations, but not give any directive to the executive.
He noted that a committee or committees of both Houses do not even have powers to pass binding Resolutions and that they can only make recommendations to Plenary.
“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.”
The minister 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”, he declared.