Commotion as NASS Panal works out Kayamo over 774,000 jobs

By Millicent Umoru-Osakwua, Abuja.

Drama ensued on Tuesday at the National Assembly complex in Abuja as the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN was walked out of a meeting with the joint Committee on Labour.

This was sequel to a sharp disagreement between the Minister and members of the panel from both the Senate and House of Representatives which led to a shouting match from both sides over the modalities to be adopted on the planned 774, 000 unskilled jobs for Nigerians.

Kayamo was invited by the joint committee to brief the lawmakers on the Federal Government’s Special Public Works, SPW programme designed to employ 1,000 persons from each of the 774 Local Government Areas (LGA)of the country.

The Federal Government has said it will recruit 1,000 itinerant and unskilled workers in each of the 774 LGAs, in the country from October to December for road rehabilitation, construction, and sanitation, among others.

The programme, which is expected to gulp N52B, was already appropriated in the revised 2020 budget.

Keyamo is the supervisor of the public works 20-man selection committee, chaired by the Director General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Malam Nasir Ladan Argungu.

Trouble however, started when Keyamo, who is in charge of the programme was invited by the joint committee to explain how the States’ Selection Committees for the Extended Special Public Works Programme was done.

The lawmakers also wanted to know the modality of recruitment of workers, the selection of state committees and to explain his statement that politicians are out to hijack the jobs meant for the vulnerable citizens.

These developments made Keyamo, who said his Ministry was asked to supervise the recruitments by President Muhammadu Buhari, to exchange hot words with the lawmakers, who had disagreed with him on some modalities.

The shouting match between the lawmakers and the Minister almost degenerated into unpleasant situations.

Keyamo disclosed that the lawmakers have been given 15 percent slots of the program and still wanted to have a total control over the programme

The Minister noted that the lawmakers want to have a total control of the program which, according to him, is not possible.

He explained that a couple of days ago, the committee started mounting pressure on him to bring a list of the one thousand candidates from the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria.

The Minister noted that the intention of the lawmakers is to direct him on what to do from state to state.

He said: “The chairman insisted that I must come to him privately for him to give me instructions about how the program should be run all over the country.

” But I said no, that I am only answerable to the President and I can only be answerable for what I have done by virtue of the provision of the constitution.

“What they are getting wrong is that they said I am questioning their power to investigate me. They wanted the cameras to be out before I talk, that is, going into an executive session but I declined that everything must be done in the open with all the cameras so as to expose any kind of corruption. The Nigerian people must know what is going on.”

The minister also said that the committee cannot accuse him of lopsidedness in the allocation and turn back to clean him up in an executive session.

Keyamo, who was visibly angry when the Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, Mr. Nasiru Ladan Argungu, could not defend the N52B budgeted for the recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians under the NDE, said that his Ministry was asked to supervise the recruitments by President Muhammadu Buhari, but the lawmakers disagreed with him.

Reacting to Keyamo’s allegation while addressing newsmen, the lawmakers said that the Minister thought he could manipulate them in their decision because he has lots of skeletons in his cupboard.

They further accused the Minister of trying to guide their sitting by his attempt to disorganize it.

Co-chairman of the joint committee, Senator Godiya Akwashiki said that the Minister totally contradicted himself when asked to brief them on his activities of the Ministry especially with the lopsided nature of the 20-man committee set up in each state for the recruitment exercise.

Senator Akwasiki said that while Keyamo said that 20 people were recruited for the exercise, the DG of NDE is only aware of 8 people out of the committee set up by the Minister.

“The DG NDE said he only knows about eight people, but how the Minister came about the remaining 12 people is best known to him. We want him to explain to us how they select 20 people from each state. He has a skeleton in his cupboard; he’s trying to bring confusion.

“We want him to tell us about the 12 people because the DG said he is aware of only eight people. He is trying to confuse us,” the lawmaker said.

The lawmakers clarified that they are not here to witch hunt anybody but to carry out their duties of checkmating the activities of the executive.

Keyamo had explained that the workers, who would be paid a total of N60, 000 each, that is, N20, 000 per month, are to carry out public works that are peculiar to each Local Government Area.

He had said: “They would be engaged in roads rehabilitation and social housing construction, urban and rural sanitation, health extension and other critical services.”

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