By Henry Umoru
A mild drama ensued at the National Assembly yesterday, as the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, engaged lawmakers in a hot verbal exchange over the 774,000 job recruitment by the National Directorate of Employment, NDE.
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier in the year, directed that the jobs be created in the 774 local government areas of the country, with the minister superintending it. Each local government is to benefit 1,000 job spaces.
The outbursts by both parties played out at the interactive session on the subject between the minister and members of the joint committee of the National Assembly on Labour.
Trouble started when the National Assembly Committee requested that the Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, Nasiru Ladan, 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
Ladan could not defend the N52 billion budgeted for the recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians under the NDE programme.
The lawmakers were, however, not satisfied with his explanation, having given the impression he was not in control of the programme.
Half way into his explanation, after disclosing that he was aware of only eight members of the committee, Ladan referred the lawmakers to seek further clarification from the Minister.
The National Assembly had in the 2020 budget appropriated N52 billion for the Special Public Works Programme for the employment of 774,000 citizens.
At this point, Keyamo said his ministry was asked by President Buhari to supervise the recruitment but the lawmakers disagreed with his declaration, and this sparked off a shouting match.
At this point, Keyamo snapped, violently hitting at the table as the lawmakers threw questions at him, accusing him of hijacking the programme from NDE and alleging acute lopsidedness in the entire programme.
The drama took a different dimension when the lawmakers asked that journalists excused the meeting for an executive session with the Minister.
Keyamo rejected this, insisting that having been openly accused and disgraced, the cameras should remain in the room.
His outburst infuriated the lawmakers who asked that he apologised for his behaviour but Keyamo refused, saying he had done nothing wrong to warrant an apology.
Keyamo’s subtle threat to walk out of the meeting further irked the lawmakers who asked him to go, if he wanted.
When he refused to apologise, the lawmakers reached a resolution, asking Keyamo to leave the meeting.
Speaking with journalists, Keyamo who accused the lawmakers of trying to take control of the recruitment under his ministry, said that while he was not opposed to the lawmakers investigating the programme, he would not allow himself to be teleguided by them, adding that doing so would mean sharing in the powers of President Buhari.
He said despite granting the lawmakers 15% of the job placement; they still wanted to hijack the entire process and take over the powers of the President.