The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, has rejected the directive by the President of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmed Lawan that the Director General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) should drive the process for the recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians into the Special Public Works Programme.
Keyamo made the rejection in a statement on Tuesday while reacting to the directive of the Senate President, adding that the directive was not just unconstitutional but also done in order to get him out of the way.
It will be recalled that the minister was last week engaged in a shouting match with the joint committee of the National Assembly on Labour, Employment and Productivity during a hearing on modalities for the programme.
The committee, which felt slighted by the conduct of the minister, accused him of trying to dictate to them on how they conduct their business, walking him out of the hearing in the process.
Keyamo thereafter accused the lawmakers of trying to take charge of the process so they can give slots to their cronies, while the committee accused him of trying to use the recruitment to build a political base across the country.
Quoting relevant sections of the NDE enabling law, the minister declared that he was not bound by the unconstitutional directive by the National Assembly, but by the constitution he swore to uphold.
Keyamo’s reaction came despite an apology by the substantive Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige to the National Assembly.
Ngige said when he led Keyamo to the National Assembly: “We deeply regret the incident that happened at the last visit, the altercations that followed it between my Minister of State and members of the joint committees.
“Therefore, we decided that as a team, we will come in force and give you the necessary information that you will need so that we can fast track this programme.
“My minister of state has put out a position paper, that position paper, nothing is sacrosanct there. We can still discuss and agree after disagreeing.
“Therefore, Mr. Senate President, I apologise on behalf of the ministry for what took place the last time.
“I hope that this apology will be taken by the members of the committee and the entire National Assembly, because I’m aware and I know that a committee is a representative of the whole.
“I, therefore, request that we forgive and forget. Let us turn a new page and start off on this programme.”
However, Keyamo in his statement after the meeting, said: “Earlier today, I appeared again before the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Labour and Employment. Before the Committee sat, we paid a courtesy call on the Senate Leadership where the Senate President announced that I, as supervising Minister of the NDE, should hands off the preparation and execution of the Programme. He further directed the DG, NDE to bring his plans for the execution of the Program DIRECTLY to the National Assembly on Monday, July 13, 2020, for scrutiny and approval. The Joint Committee also took a similar position and adjourned.
“With the utmost humility, I regret to say these directives are against the provisions of the NDE Act made by the National Assembly itself and the Constitutional provisions on Separation of Powers.
“1. By virtue of Section 3 (2)of the NDE Act, as supervising Minister, I am the Chairman of the Board of NDE that superintendents and gives directions to the Management of the NDE
“2. That by virtue of section 15 of the NDE Act, I am also authorized, as supervising Minister, to give general directives to the Board and Management, with which they must comply.
“3. By virtue of Section 16 (1) of the NDE Act, the supervising Minister has the sole prerogative to constitute Committees for the Agency.
“4. In addition to the above, Section 6(2) of the National Directorate of Employment Act states that, ‘The Director-General shall, subject to this Act, be the Chief Executive of the Directorate and shall be responsible to the Minister for the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Directorate.”
“5. By a memo Ref: CAO.143/S.1/T11/8 dated October 18, 2019, and forwarded to all Government functionaries by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, I was mandated by Mr. President to oversee all the activities of the National Directorate of Employment.
“6. In addition to the above, by a letter, Ref: SH/COS/14/A/1217 dated 6 May, 2020, Mr. President, once again, approved that I supervise the preparation and execution of the Special Public Works Programme domiciled under the N.D.E
“However, today, the National Assembly swept aside all these provisions of the law and Presidential directives and authorized the DG of NDE to proceed to submit a plan without the express approval of the Minister. This was done in a desperate bid to get me out of the way AT ALL COST.
“My involvement in this process so far is to constitute multi-sectoral Committees at State levels to ensure a grassroots selection process. This was done after an inter-Ministerial Committee headed by the DG NDE made such a recommendation which I accepted. As stated above, I am authorized to do so by virtue of Section 16 (1) of the NDE Act. As a result all the sponsored allegations and attacks in relation to my role so far are nothing but cheap blackmail. My actions are backed by law.
“In the circumstances of the above, I regret to say I am not bound by such a patently illegal and unconstitutional resolution by the National Assembly and I am only bound by the provisions of the law and the Constitution that all public officers swore on oath to uphold.”