ON Tuesday, June 30, 2020, Festus Keyamo, SAN, the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, was reportedly walked out by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity over his refusal to apologise to them after defying them at an investigative public hearing over the implementation of the Federal Government’s 774,000 job scheme.
President Muhammadu Buhari had mandated the Ministry to supervise implementation of the scheme which is primarily domiciled with the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, to ensure that it meets the strategic objectives. Keyamo told the NASS joint committee that he had set up a 20-man panel to implement the recruitment process.
Chairman of the NASS joint committee, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, accused Keyamo of not carrying the NDE Director-General, Nasiru Ladan, along. The committee also demanded to know his criteria for picking members of the implementation panel, but Keyamo accused them of hiding behind oversight responsibilities to usurp functions of the executive and refused to oblige them.
Keyamo, an activist lawyer, also questioned the committee’s decision to order an executive session which would exclude the media.
He insisted that having accused him of wrongdoing by some members of the panel, the onus was on them to allow the media to witness the entire proceedings and report back to the Nigerian people. Amidst a shouting match, the committee accused Keyamo of trying to dictate proceedings and walked him out.
It later came out that some members of the committee suspected that Keyamo allegedly sidelined the NDE boss because he saw the scheme as an opportunity to set up a self-serving political structure of 1,000 youths in every local government of the country.
Keyamo was also reported to have accused the lawmakers of demanding 15 per cent job slots. Both sides, however, denied the accusations.
This is what ensues when selfish interests are allowed to becloud an otherwise well-intended programme such as the 774,000 jobs scheme which is primarily targeted at pumping massive youth manpower into the agricultural sector and the attached value chains.
Because of needless power show, mutual suspicion and selfish considerations, an investigative hearing that should have cleared the air and boost the public confidence in the mass employment scheme has been thwarted.
The Ministry should be allowed to do its job, but it must carry the NDE Director-General fully along. The Director-General cannot be a spectator in a scheme his Directorate is implementing. We call on both sides to go back, complete the investigative hearing and carry it out with professionalism and maturity.
Whoever has allegations must substantiate them. There must be accountability in a job scheme of this magnitude. The earlier the issue is resolved the better to allow the scheme take off.