Senators, Reps, Keyamo in Shouting Match
***Keyamo accuses lawmakers of wanting to hijack programme
*** As Committee Walks him out of meeting
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- THERE was melodrama yesterday at the National Assembly when the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, exchanged hot words with Senators and members of House of Representatives over the National Directorate of Employment recruitment exercise.
It was an interactive session between the Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Festus Keyamo and the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Labor-led by Senator Godiya Akwashiki ( APC Nasarawa North) and the Minister when after making presentations on modalities of recruitments for the programme, excluding the federal lawmakers from it.
The meeting ended dramatically as the Minister engaged lawmakers in a shouting bout.
Trouble started yesterday when the National Assembly Committee requested that the Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Nasiru Ladan Argungun to speak on the composition of a 20 man Committee inaugurated on Monday by the Ministry for the implementation of the planned employment of Nigerians in the Special Public Works Programme 2020.
There was also quagmire when Ladan could not defend the N52bn budgeted for the recruitments of 774,000 Nigerians into the Special Public Works in the Rural Areas under the NDE.
Meanwhile, halfway into his explanation and after disclosing that he was aware of only 8 members of the committee, Ladan then referred the lawmakers to seek further clarification from the Minister.
The lawmakers were however not satisfied with Ladan’s explanation which to them showed that he was not in control of the programmme.
The war of words which lasted for about 30 minutes at the end of the day, culminated into the committee members walking the Minister out of the interactive session for refusing to tender an apology as demanded and the Minister accusing them after storming out of the session of wanting to hijack the programme
Keyamo had in his submissions before the committee on modalities for recruitment of 1,000 youths per each of the 744 local government councils in Nigeria, listed Christian Association of Nigeria ( CAN), Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs ( SCIA), National Union of Road Transport Workers ( NURTW), Academic Staff Union of Universities ( ASUU), Market women Association, Traditional Rulers, Youth organisations and civil society organisations as pressure groups to be used as channels of recruitment at the grassroots, exclusion of which angered the federal lawmakers.
In her remarks, One of the lawmakers, Senator Betty Apiafi, PDP Rivers South asked the Minister to explain to the committee how performance indicators would be determined since they as representatives of the people are excluded from the recruitment process.
Responding, Keyamo said that since the programme will take off in October this year, all the channels of recruitments to be decided upon by 20- man committee per each state, would serve as the mechanism for the performance indicators.
Not happy with the Minister’s response, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Godiya Akwashiki who picked holes in the submission of the Minister and that of Director General of National Directorate of Employment ( NDE) Nasir Ladan Argungun, said that while the Minister mentioned 20 groups to be used as channels for the recruitment, the NDE DG, said he was only aware of 8, meaning that your ministry is hijacking the N52billion programme from NDE , originally saddled with it, going by Appropriation made in the 2020 budget.
Akwashiki thereafter after called for a closed-door session, but it was vehemently rejected by the Minister who said, ” I came here for the open session and not closed session.”
At this point when the lawmakers made him understand that he cannot dictate to them on how the session would be run, Kayamo then banged the table by shouting that he won’t go into the closed-door session with anybody and that accusation can not be leveled against him in the open and thereafter, come and make explanations secretly.
Not comfortable with the Minister’s outburst, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, APC, Kwara Central then moved a motion that the Minister should apologise for tackling the committee overrule of proceedings.
Oloriegbe’s motion which was adopted by the committee, however, worsened the situation when he was asked to tender apology by the Committee Chairman to which he said no, having not committed any offence or made a derogatory statement against.
At that point, almost every member of the committee stood up, shouting, go ! go! go !, to the Minister, if he cannot apologise.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, then ruled, telling the Minister that based on decision taken by the committee, if he cannot apologise, he should leave.
Keyamo responded by storming out of the meeting.
Speaking with Journalists after he stormed out of the meeting, Keyamo who accused the lawmakers of trying to take control of the recruitment Exercise under his ministry, said that while he was not adverse to them investigating the programme; they cannot direct him on what to do, adding that doing so will mean sharing in the powers of President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to Keyamo, despite granting the lawmakers 15% of the job placement; they still want to hijack the entire the programme; taking over the power of the President in the process.
Keyamo said: “What they did not allow me to say inside? I will stay outside. Today’s invitation to come here was for an interactive session I came here.
“The inter-ministerial committee recommended 20 man committee and we approved it. Meanwhile, they are comfortable with the eight which are clearly stated like Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Jammatu Nasir Islam (JNI) and others.
“The others are youth organisations and we cannot list youth organisations because from state to state different youths organisations are depending on the peculiarity of the state.
“The background to this was that a couple of days ago. They started mounting pressure on me that I must bring the list of those to select the 1000 persons from all the local government to them for them to direct me as to what to do from state to state.
“The chairman insisted I must come to them privately for them to hand over to me certain instructions as to how this program will be across the country.
“I said no that would be sharing the powers of the President and that I can only be answerable for what I have done by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution.
” They can only investigate the programme , that cannot direct it.”
Meanwhile, the lawmakers have denied the allegation levelled against them by the Minister.
Senator Akwashiki who denied the allegations, said : “As a national Assembly our main duty is to check the executive arm of government body the appropriation Act that allows for spending federation account has said that this money should be spent by the National Directorate if employment under the ministry.
“After all that has been said we asked him to apologise to the committee because we have the rules of proceeding here and that we are all in agreement that if he does not apologise to us he can excuse himself or we suspend this programme of the Federal government upon which he left.
“We invited the two ministers – the senior minister and the junior minister – the Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Labour and Employment to come and brief us – a joint committee of the Senate and House of Representatives – on what is happening regarding to the Special Works under NDE.
“Before we started, we asked the Director-General NDE and the Minister to brief us on the pilot selected states which is about eight that the President selected because it is because that programme succeeded that gave Mr. President interest or attention to say that the entire country – that is 1000 per the 774 Local Governments should be recruited.
“Come back to the N52 billion approved under NDE, we now asked the Minister of State because the senior minister is not here, that he should explain to us how far they have gone because read on the pages of newspapers this morning that a 20-man Selection Committee from each state was inaugurated yesterday and that they have are chairman and vice-chairman and that the State Coordinator of the NDE is the Secretary. We only read that on the pages of newspapers this morning.
“We asked him to brief us how he came about that Committee. He now said it was a tripartite Committee set up by Mr. President that comprised of eight Ministries but we disagreed with him on that because we are lawmakers and we try to work always within the ambit of the law for the implementation of whatever we have for the Nigerian people.
“We said that this money (N52billion) has been approved under NDE. It is even in the budget. So for him to say it is eight ministries that are involved in this we disagreed with him.
“Thank God that the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health is here. There is another money under COVID-19 intervention that has been channelled to the Ministry for Health.
“So we said that is not the issue. How did he come about the 20-man selection Committee? Because if you did not get it right with the selection committee, I want to tell you that this programme is going to be a failure.
“Nobody is requesting for any slot from him and he cannot blackmail us.”