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N/Assembly Set For Show Down As Buhari Backs Keyamo On 770,000 Jobs

The Minister of State for Labour and  Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), on Tuesday, said he had got the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to supervise the recruitment of 774, 000 youths under the Special Public Works Programme.
Keyamo, who disclosed this in a text message sent to one of PUNCH correspondents in Abuja in response to a question, said the President had directed him to supervise the recruitment.

Buhari’s order contradicted a directive of the National Assembly,  which, earlier this month, said the programme should be suspended.

Although the two chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday declined to comment on the approval given to Keyamo by the President, The PUNCH learnt that the lawmakers would on Wednesday (today)  debate the issue.

Buhari had, a few months ago, approved the employment of 774,000  workers as part of efforts to cushion the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the programme, 1, 000 Nigerians, who will earn N20, 000 each on a monthly basis for three months, will be recruited in each of the 774 local government areas of the country.

The programme was, however,  hit by a crisis on July 1 when the National Assembly said it had suspended it because of a disagreement it had with Keyamo.

The spokesperson for the Senate, Dr Ajibola Basiru, and his counterpart for the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, who disclosed this in a statement they jointly signed, said Buhari could challenge the decision in court.

In the statement titled, “The FG public works programme must benefit Nigerians:  Implementation of the public works to be put on hold,”  the lawmakers accused the minister of trying to hijack the scheme from the National Directorate of Employment, its implementing agency.

The dispute between Keyamo and the lawmakers started on June  30, when the minister was ordered out of the National Assembly because of his refusal to apologise when the legislators accused him of raising his voice against them.

The minister and the  Director-General of the  NDE, Mr Nasiru Argungu,  were at the National Assembly to brief its Joint Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity on the public works programme.

In his reaction to the lawmakers’ decision, Keyamo had said that the National Assembly had no power to issue any directive to the executive.

In the text message sent to The PUNCH correspondent on Tuesday, Keyamo  said, “I have the instructions of my boss, Mr President, to proceed with the supervision of the preparation for the execution of the programme in accordance with the law.”

A few minutes after Keyamo said he had got the President’s approval, the Federal Ministry of Labour in a tweet said the recruitment of the  774, 000 youths had started.

The tweet read, “Special public works programme of the Federal Government has started 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 on the portal.”

It was also learnt that Keyamo directed the NDE DG to halt further actions on the recruitment of the workers, which he insisted would be undertaken by the ministry.

Findings indicate that the  SPWG portal, https://specialpublicworks.gov.ng/site/ has started functioning. It contains the list of state selection committee members inaugurated by the minister a few weeks ago and other tips on the exercise.

We haven’t  received information on Buhari’s directive –N’Assembly

The Senate spokesman, when contacted, said he would not react to the report that Buhari had directed Keyamo to ignore the National Assembly’s suspension of the programme.

He said, “I cannot react to information which was not officially communicated to the Senate. I won’t answer further questions on the issue because we don’t have such information at the Senate.”

Also, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Benjamin Kalu, on Tuesday night, stated that the position of the Presidency on the matter had not been officially communicated to the parliament.

But a senator confided in one of our correspondents that the issue would be raised on Wednesday at the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Senator from the South-South, said, “I read the report online but it has not been brought to the attention of the parliament.

“ I am sure a member would raise it as a point of order during plenary tomorrow (Wednesday) and we will have a hot debate on it.

“We will still have a debate on it even if the President sends a communication, objecting our resolution to suspend the programme, which was communicated to him two weeks ago.”

It was learnt  that the action of the Buhari-led executive did not go down well with the federal lawmakers, who vowed to resist it.

The Minority Leader of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, in a chat with The PUNCH on Tuesday, said,  “I’m not going to react in my personal capacity. I will make my position know when we meet to take a decision. We will definitely have a meeting on the issue.”

Also, Senator Chukwuka Utazi said he would not want to preempt the decision of the Senate on the issue with his own personal reaction.

He said, “Don’t let me preempt the Senate with my personal comments. We will meet on the matter and take a joint decision.”

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