…NDE MUST REPORT TO MINISTER OF STATE, SAYS MINISTRY SPOKESMAN
The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity on Wednesday rejected resolutions of both chambers of the National Assembly calling for the removal of the Minister of State, Festus Keyamo, from supervising recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians for the Special Public Works programme.
The ministry’s Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Charles Akpan, in an interview with THE PUNCH in Abuja, said “nothing has changed.”
The Senate and the House of Representatives, had at their separate sessions on Tuesday, asked the President Muhammadu Buhari to stop Keyamo from supervising the recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians.
Recall that the lawmakers and Keyamo last month clashed when the minister was ordered out of the sitting of the Senate committee investigating the special works programme.
The senators accused him of raising his voice against them.
On July 1, the National Assembly said it had stopped the planned recruitment on the grounds that Keyamo had hijacked it from the National Directorate of Employment.
But despite the National Assembly’s directive, Keyamo, on July 14, said he had got the approval of the President to supervise the recruitment.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, and the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, subsequently met the President over the issue.
After the meeting, Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement titled, “President Buhari reads riot act to ministers, MDAs, chief executives on relationship with NASS,” said the President had warned his appointees that he would not accept any act of disrespect to the National Assembly.
On Tuesday, the National Assembly said the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, should supervise the programme.
In the Senate, the Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Opeyemi Bamidele, brought the motion through a point of order.
He said Keyamo erred in law by taking over an assignment which was constitutionally assigned to the NDE through the Revised 2020 Appropriation Act.
He said the Federal parliament approved N52bn for the NDE to execute the exercise but lamented that the labour ministry, through Keyamo, had hijacked it.
But Akpan stated that the exercise would be supervised by Keyamo, under whose office the NDE operates.
Akpan stated, “The special works programme is with the NDE, but our ministry is the supervising ministry for NDE and because of that, we monitor their activities and the ministry of labour was given the responsibility to handle that assignment, and it is under the supervision of the minister of state. So, whatever the directorate does, it would report to the minister of state; so nothing has changed.”
When asked to react to the Ministry of Labour’s statement, the spokesperson for the Senate, Senator Ajibola Basiru, said the position of the red chamber on the 774,000 job recruitment issue had not changed.
The senator told one of our correspondents that the copy of the Appropriation Act signed by the President by virtue of Section 82 recognises the National Directorate on Employment as the agency saddled with the responsibilities of implementing the Federal Works Programme.
He said, “The Appropriation Act in making provision for N52b for the public works had the NDE in mind. There is a difference between the agency and the Ministry of Labour.
“The NDE is not the same as the ministry of labour, employment and productivity and they are not at par.
“What the Senate is insisting is that it is not by accident that the budget was domiciled in the NDE and not the main ministry.
“In carrying out the budget in order not to breach the law, the executive must comply with the terms of this.
“The budget is not just the amount that has been earmarked, it is also earmarked for whom that amount of money should be spent, and also the agency saddled with that responsibility.
“The budget is specific as to the agency in which the budget is domiciled, it is the NDE, No minister can assume a power that is not vested in terms of expending money that has been appropriated.
“It is clear in our resolution. We are not doubting the fact that the agency in which the minister is the chairman has power of supervision but power of supervision is different from power for implementation and our power of oversight under the constitution is not only about corruption it is also about exposing inefficiency.
“We are insisting that the legality and the constitutionality of the programme must be followed to the letter.
“The Appropriation Act is a legal instrument that must be followed.
“We have sounded a note of warning to anybody that the budget (N52bn) must be implemented according to the letter.”
BADEJO ADEMUYIWA has 23 years experience as a Finance Writer, specialising in Insurance and Investigative Reporting.