The Federal Government has ignored attempts by the National Assembly to halt the take-off of the 774,000 special public works programme and commenced the exercise on the scheduled date of Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
The special public works programme is designed to employ 1,000 people from each of the 774 local government areas in the country who would be paid
Members of the National Assembly and the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo were at loggerheads over the recruitment process for programme.
While the lawmakers had accused Keyamo of hijacking the programme from the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), the Minister alleged it was the legislators that were trying to take over the process.
In the midst of the controversy, the Joint Committee on Labour, Productivity and Employment of the National Assembly suspended the programme and directed NDE to take over and inform the legislature how it intends to execute the programme, but Buhari directed Keyamo to go ahead with the exercise.
Also, the House of Representatives had at plenary on December 15, 2020 asked the Federal government, particularly the Minister of State for Labour to stop with immediate effect, all processes leading to the commencement of the programme until the list of beneficiaries compiled by the NDE in each state is used as a basis of selection.
It also asked the Minister of Finance not to release funds for the programme until all issues that are related to non compliance to due process are resolved, and mandated the Committees on Labour and Productivity and Legislative compliance to ensure compliance
and report to the House in the next one week.
The House’s decision which followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Olajide Olatubonsuni (APC, Oyo), also condemned the sack of the Director General of NDE Mohammed Ladan-Argungu and advised that he be reinstated immediately.
Olatubonsuni recalled that the Minister of State for Labour inaugurated state selection committee for each state of the Federation while NDE as part of its statutory mandate was responsible for the registration of the beneficiaries.
The lawmaker expressed concern that the state selection committees in most states of the Federation by passed and ignored the list of beneficiaries compiled by NDE and forwarded a separate list of purported beneficiaries to the office of the Minister of State for Labour.
Olatubonsuni said he was: “Greatly concerned that most Nigerians that have submitted their names to the NDE offices in their respective states have been unjustly excluded from this programme which the Minister of State for Labour announced will start on January 5, 2021.
“Worried that if this programme is allowed to go ahead without following due process, a bad precedent would have been set for implementing programmes of this nature in the future”.
However, in outright disregard for the House resolutions, Keyamo announced via Twitter that the special public works programme which will engage 774,000 unemployed Nigerians kicked off on Tuesday.
He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the take-off of the Special Public Works Programme (engaging 774,000 unemployed itinerant Nigerians) to begin nationwide on Tuesday, January 5th, 2021. All NDE state structures are already in top gear for the take-off ceremonies”.
Efforts to get reaction of the House to decison of the executive were frutile as the Official Spokesperson of the Green Chamber, Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia) was yet to respond to a text message sent to his mobile phone number at press time.