While Nigerians have been told to get set for massive recruitment of about 774,000 unemployed and unskilled workers, 15 per cent of the jobs (116,100) have already been allocated to lawmakers, a minister has said.
Festus Keyamo, the minister of state for labour, added that the lawmakers were still not satisfied with what they were given.
“They still want to hijack the entire programme, taking over the power of the president in the process,” Mr Keyamo told journalists after a stormy session with lawmakers on Tuesday in Abuja.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported the clash between Mr Keyamo and the lawmakers at a meeting he had with the joint committee of the National Assembly on employment and labour.
The meeting was aimed at discussing the progress of the planned employment of 774,000 Nigerians by the federal government.
The National Assembly had in the 2020 budget appropriated N52 billion for the special public works programme aimed at employing 774,000 citizens, a thousand from each of the 774 local government areas in the country.
Lawmakers attempt to ‘hijack’ process
After his exit, Mr Keyamo told journalists the inter-ministerial committee recommended a 20-man committee which was approved by the ministry. He also said the lawmakers pressured him to submit the names of those involved in the recruitment process.
“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 insisted I must come to them privately for them to hand over to me certain instructions as to how this programme will be across the country. I said ‘no’ 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, they cannot direct it,” he said.
‘I never walked out on the committee’
In a statement released shortly after the meeting, Mr Keyamo refuted claims that he walked out of the joint committee following the misunderstanding.
He accused the lawmakers of trying to control the recruitment process even though the constitution does not allow them.
“…they questioned why I did not privately submit the programme to them for vetting before taking certain steps. They 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 do not extend to that.”
He said after he refused to apologise, he was then permitted to leave.
“I took a bow and left. I never walked out on the respected committee as they may want to bend the narrative.”
The minister further directed all the committees set up nationwide made up of CAN, NSCIA, NURTW, market women, CSOS, youth organisations, traditional rulers, others to proceed with their work unhindered.
He added that the joint committee no power to suspend or decide how the programme should be run as that will be “challenging the powers of the president.”
Panel denies requesting more slots
The chairman of the committee, Godiya Akwasiki, denied the allegations by the minister.
He explained that the assembly has a duty to check the appropriation act that allows for spending and the allocated money that should be spent by the National Directorate of Employment under the ministry.
“…we asked the minister to brief us how he came about that committee. He 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 (N52 billion) 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. We asked how he came about the 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,” he explained.
This is not the first time federal lawmakers have been accused of taking job slots from several agencies like the Federal Inland Revenue Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and National Open University – to share or sell to their constituents.
In 2019, some lawmakers had threatened to cause trouble over the sharing formula of the employment slots given to them by the federal agency.
The slots were allegedly shared among the 10-member body of principal officers.
Although the former Senate spokesperson, Adedayo Adeyeye, feigned ignorance about the allegations, the Senate committee on federal character, commenced an investigation into the matter which is still ongoing.
Recently, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, denied reports that about 500 slots were allocated to federal lawmakers and politicians across the country by the ministry of humanitarian affairs.