The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, on Tuesday, exchanged words with National Assembly members over the federal government’s 774,000 recruitment exercise.
The government had unveiled a scheme, “Special Public Works Programme” to employ 1,000 persons from each of the 774 local government areas.
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The initiative is billed to begin on October 1 and each beneficiary will be paid N20, 000 monthly to carry out public works.
The programme is domiciled in the National Directorate of Employment.
The National Assembly joint Committees on Labour had invited Keyamo to brief them on the recruitment exercise.
Keyamo told the lawmakers that a 20-man selection committee had been constituted in each state of the federation.
Trouble started when the lawmakers accused the minister of lopsidedness in the composition of the committee’s membership.
NDE Director-General Nasiru Ladan said he was only aware of the selection of eight members of the selection committee, adding that he had no knowledge of how the minister arrived at the remaining 12 members.
The lawmakers called for an executive session to resolve the difference, but Keyamo disagreed, insisting that everything must happen on camera.
A rowdy session consequently ensued.
The lawmakers accused Kayamo of trying to dictate their proceedings to them and demanded an apology, but he said he had not said anything that warranted an apology.
“He should excuse himself if he does not want to apologize,” a lawmaker shouted.
Keyamo’s refusal to apologise resulted in another round of uproar which lasted about 15 minutes.
“After all that has been said, we asked him to apologise to the committee because we have rules of proceeding here and that we’re all in agreement that if he does not apologise to us, he can excuse himself or we suspend this programme of the Federal Fovernment,” the Senate Committee Chairman on Labour, Employment and Productivity, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, said.
The minister was later walked out of the session; but while addressing reporters outside the venue, Keyamo accused the lawmakers of trying to hijack the programme after reserving 10 – 15 percent slots for them.
“There’s nothing to apologise for because the constitution says expose corruption, and you cannot expose corruption behind the public. What I said is constitutional.
“They said they have powers to expose, you can’t expose behind closed doors,” Keyamo said.
Akwashiki said:”We only want them to tell us how they arrived at the selection of 20 people from each state, but because he has a skeleton in his cupboard, he didn’t want us to go ahead.
“Even the DG of the NDE, who is the accounting officer of the NDE, didn’t know about the 12 people.
“What is he trying to tell people?
“At the end of the day, he (Keyamo) tried to insult the lawmakers as if he’s trying to tell us the procedures of our sitting.”
Later in a statement, Keyamo directed the state coordinators of the programme to proceed with their work “unhindered”, saying “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 committee.
“My opinion is that it’s tantamount to challenging the powers of Mr President.”