A few minutes after his meeting with the National Assembly joint committees on the 774,000 Special Public Works programme jobs ended in a fiasco, the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, said on Tuesday evening the lawmakers could not stop the recruitment exercise.
In a statement he personally signed and titled: “Purported suspension of selection process of 774,000 jobs by National Assembly Committees,” the minister alleged that the Joint Committees on Labour in both the Senate and the House of Representatives tried to “control the programme as to who gets what, where and how.”
He directed the state selection committees drawn from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Market Women, Youth Organisations and traditional rulers to proceed with the recruitment process.
The minister insisted that he would not surrender the programme to the lawmakers, saying their powers under the constitution do not extend to the exercise.
Keyamo had clashed with the lawmakers during an interactive session on the exercise earlier on Tuesday.
Trouble started when the minister said he had inaugurated a 20-member committee to implement the recruitment process and that the committee had started work.
The lawmakers asked him to explain the modalities he had adopted to carry out the recruitment process and why he was not carrying National Directorate of Employment (NDE) along in the exercise.
He explained to the lawmaker that an Act that established the NDE gave his ministry powers to oversee the affairs and programmes of the agency.
Keyamo said the Director-General of the NDE, Nasiru Ladan, is a member of the committee.
Arguments later ensued between the lawmakers and the minister.
Angered by Keyamo’s perceived arrogance, the lawmakers walked him out of the session when he refused to apologise for allegedly raising his voice against them.
The statement read:
“Today, in obedience to their invitation, I appeared before the Joint Committees on Labour of both the Senate and the House. The Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members sought to be briefed on the implementation of the Special Public Works Programme so far.
“However, there was a misunderstanding between us when they questioned why I did not privately submit the program to them for vetting before taking certain steps. They suggested that they ought to have an 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.
“However, 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.
“At this point, I remarked that it was only fair for me to respond to their position before the press, since their own position was also made public. In any case, I remarked that the Nigerian people deserve to know the details of the execution of this all-important programme.
“I was then asked to apologize for insisting on 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.
“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.
“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.
“I therefore, respectfully further 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.” Watch the video below: