The Minister of Labour, Productivity and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has apologized to the leadership of the National Assembly over last week’s face-off between the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo and the Joint Senate and House Committees on Labour, Productivity and Employment.
The altercation came about when members of the National Assembly had on Tuesday, June 30, walked out the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Keyamo, during an investigative hearing over the 774, 000 jobs offer of the Federal Government.
Dr. Ngige tendered an apology on Tuesday in an address delivered when he led a delegation from the Ministry on a visit to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, at the National Assembly, Abuja.
Dr. Ngige said: “We deeply regret the incident that happened, the altercation that followed it, between my Minister of State and members of the Joint Committee.
“Therefore, we decided that as a team, we would come with full force and give the necessary information that we need so that we can fast track this Programme which was designed from the office of the President before the COVID-19
“Therefore, Mr. President, I apologize on behalf of my Ministry for what took place the last time, and I hope this apology will be taken by members of the Committee and the entire National Assembly, because I’m aware and know that a Committee is a representative of the whole. The committee room is an extension of our hallowed chambers”.
The Senate President in his response explained that the decision by the National Assembly to approve the sum of N52 billion as requested by the Executive for the Special Public Works Programme was mainly out of confidence in the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to implement accordingly.
He stated that the Ministry of Labour, Productivity and Employment only has a supervisory role to play in the implementation of the Programme designed to recruit 774,000 Nigerians.
“The National Assembly passed that request feeling convinced that this is one Programme that is needed in this country especially at this time.
“But we were also conscious of one thing, who should implement the programme. That was one of our considerations. Even the Executive requested that the National Directorate for Employment (NDE) should implement the Programme, and we agreed with that for the following reasons.
“NDE has been in existence since 1996, and is established by law, and that was our reason for keeping the money in NDE to implement as an agency.
“NDE has six zonal offices and thirty seven state offices, including the FCT, and close to 700 local government representative officers across the country.
“They have a staff strength of over 2,200, and therefore, NDE is primed to undertake such a project because it has the capacity. The Ministry of Labour at the headquarters has no such capacity” Lawan said.
According to Senator Lawan, the Ministry’s involvement in the implementation of the programme runs contrary to the provisions of the law which only empowers NDE to make procurements.
The Senate President described as null and void all earlier actions taken by the Ministry of Labour, Productivity and Employment to commence implementation of the Special Public Works Programme.
Thereafter when both parties reconvened at the committee stage as directed by President of the Senate, the joint committee co-chairman, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, asked the NDE to re-present it’s plan of action on Monday for a fresh start of the public works programme.
How we got here
President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the engagement of 774, 000 Nigerians on Special Public Works programme in the country to cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
By the arrangement, 1, 000 people were expected to be recruited from each of the 774 local government areas in the country.
The National Assembly Joint Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity, had summoned the Minister and the Director General of the National Directorate of Employment, Mr Nasiru Argungu, to brief its members on the steps so far taken to recruit 774, 000 people.
Trouble started when the lawmakers criticised the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity Festus Keyamo for allegedly engaging in a lopsided recruitment without the active involvement of the NDE, the agency that got N52bn approval from the National Assembly to implement the programme.
Keyamo was ordered out of the National Assembly on Tuesday following his refusal to apologise after the legislators accused him of raising his voice against them.
The argument that ensued afterwards led to a shouting match between both parties which later forced the lawmakers to order Keyamo out of the meeting.