The executive arm of government may have drawn the battle line with the National Assembly, as the Federal Government yesterday said it has kick-started the special public works program suspended by the latter.
The government announced the take-off via its official Twitter handle yesterday, despite the National Assembly’s insistence that the program be suspended.
The National Assembly had last week, insisted that the program remained suspended, in spite of the apology of the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, to the lawmakers over the spat between them and Minister of State, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN.
The program, coordinated by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and superintended by the Minister of State for Labour, Employment, and Productivity, Mr. Festus Keyamo, was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari as a part of the fiscal stimulus measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 1,000 Nigerians from each of the 774 local government areas will be engaged in the program coordinated by constituted state committees.
“The Special Public Works Programme of the Federal Government has kicked off nationwide. The State Selection Committees have been inaugurated and have commenced work. Find the names and contact details of members of your State’s Committee here,” the government said in its twitter handle.
Keyamo gets Buhari’s nod to go ahead
It was gathered yesterday that President Muhammadu Buhari asked Keyamo to go ahead with the recruitment process of the 774,000 jobs across the country under the government special public works program.
Recall that the Joint Committee on Labour, Productivity, and Employment of the National Assembly had recently announced the suspension of the program and directed the Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, to take control and bring to the parliament how he intends to execute the program.
Keyamo had earlier lamented that some politicians had been making efforts to hijack the program and vowed not to succumb to any form of blackmail in executing the special public work program.
He also said the legislature would not dictate to the executive, adding that the action of the National Assembly on the execution of the program was an affront on President Buhari.
Keyamo was said to have met with the President and reported his encounter with the National Assembly over the program.
It was learned that the President was furious after hearing from the minister and lamented the National Assembly’s penchant for meddling in matters on the purview of the executive.
He was said to have told the minister to proceed with the execution of the program and ensure it was conducted strictly according to existing laws.
NDE boss ordered to halt alternative plans
The President, also ordered the Director-General of the National Directorate on Employment, NDE, to halt any alternative plan on the program with the national assembly committee.
As a follow-up, Mr. Keyamo also wrote the NDE D-G, Nasir Ladan, asking him to halt all further plans to proceed with an alternative plan to implement the program with the committees of the national assembly.
The minister also asked the DG not to “do anything or take any step regarding the preparation and actual execution of the special public works program” without express approval in writing.
It was also learned that the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has written to the National Assembly, asking it to stay within the limit of its statutory responsibilities.
Recall that Keyamo had inaugurated committees made up of 20 people in each state to take charge of engaging 774,000 citizens in the special works program.
Nigerians enlisted on the program are expected to carry out public services such as street sweeping, waste disposal, and the like. The program is aimed at engaging young jobless citizens as well as providing a means of sustenance for them.
Meanwhile, efforts to make to get spokesmen of the two arms of the National Assembly to react to this latest development yesterday proved abortive.
While Senate spokesman, Bashiru Ajibola, said he would not make any comment, his House of Representatives counterpart, Ben Kalu, declined to pick calls made to his mobile phone. He also failed to reply a text message sent to his phone.
However, while visiting Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to apologize over Keyamo’s spat with members of the joint committees of the National Assembly on the job project last week, the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Chris Ngige, had said: “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 program.
“My Minister of State has put out a position paper. In that position paper, nothing is sacrosanct. We can still discuss and agree after disagreeing.
“Therefore, Mr. Senate President, I apologize on behalf of the ministry for what took place the last time.
And 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 program.”
Responding, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had said in his remarks that the National Assembly had the mandate and jurisdiction to accept or reject the executive requests.
He said: “When Mr. President presented the request for the appropriation of N52 billion for the public works, the National Assembly committees scrutinized and recommended to the plenary of the two chambers.
“The same request, without any change, recommending the passage of N52 billion for Public Works. The National Assembly passed that request, feeling convinced that this is one program that is needed in this country especially at this time.
“Our people need some kind of support, especially the youth. So this is one program we can even own in the National Assembly.
“How we wish we have more than N52 billion for this program. But we are also conscious of one thing, who should implement the program.’’
Lawan said further that the ministry should have no role more than the supervision of this program, warning that ‘’ if the ministry goes ahead, that means that the ministry will be breaking the law because the budget is a law.
“We are not going to allow the ministry headquarters to implement this program at all. This National Assembly can support you very well, but it can stand tough if its will is tested.
“We want our committees to work with your ministry to implement this program. All previous actions are null and void. We don’t recognize them. You and your committee engage and start afresh.”