Despite the flexing of muscles between National Assembly and Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment on Wednesday on the recruitment of 774,000 persons in the country, a 20-member Special Public Works Committee with some notable names in Akwa Ibom State has been made public.
The committee has Catherine Udi as its Chairman; Inyang Unyah as Vice Chairman while Ekah Bassey will serve as Secretary.
Members include Chief David Etuk, Chief Paul Akpan, Chief Akpekong Imeh, a one-time member of defunct Akwa Ibom House of Assembly; Dr. Valerie Obot, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Manpower and Employment; Bridget Udom, Rev. (Dr.) Ndueso Ekwere- the state Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria; Imam Muhammad Adamu and Uwem Imoh.
Others are Idongesit Okon, Nse Ebritam, Mercy Ating, Godwin David, Emem Paul, Nsikak Udom, Thomas Thomas, a journalist; Dr. Nduehe Esitikot and Mfon Ukpe.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had a few months ago, approved the employment of 774,000 workers to cushion the effect of the economic hardship caused by COVID-19.
A Special Inter-ministerial Committee on the Extended Special Public Works to provide modest stipends for itinerant workers to undertake roads rehabilitation and social housing construction, urban and rural sanitation, health extension and other critical services, was inaugurated by the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, in April.
In line with Section 16(1) of the N.D.E Act, special committees in each state of the federation have been set up for the purpose of deliberating, selecting and recommending the names of the 1,000 persons from each of the local government areas in the states to be engaged for the programme.
By the arrangement, 1,000 Nigerians, who will earn N20,000 each on a monthly basis for three months, are expected to be recruited in each of the 774 local government areas of the country.
The programme will start in October this year.
As part of their oversight function, members of National Assembly Joint Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity, summoned the minister and the Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment, Mr Nasiru Argungu, to brief them on the steps so far taken to recruit the people.
Trouble started when the lawmakers criticised Keyamo for allegedly engaging in lopsided recruitment without the active involvement of the NDE, the agency that got N52 billion approval from the National Assembly to implement the programme.
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.
The spokesperson for the Senate, Dr Ajibola Basiru, and his counterpart for the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, who announced the suspension of the recruitment, said the Buhari, could challenge the decision in court.
In a statement, the spokesperson said the federal parliament took the decision following the disagreement between it and the Minister of State for Employment, Labour and Productivity, Mr Festus Keyamo, on Tuesday.
The lawmakers also hinged their decision on the fact that the programme did not exclusively belong to the President and that it was jointly conceived by the executive and the legislature.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the spokesperson for the Senate said the National Assembly had summoned the minister in charge of the ministry to appear before the legislature to explain the recruitment modalities.
He said, “In view of the foregoing, the implementation of the programme shall be put on hold pending proper briefing of the National Assembly by the minister of labour and productivity.
Later at a press conference, Keyamo said “Today, in obedience to their invitation, I appeared before the Joint Committees on Labour of both the Senate and the House. The Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members sought to be briefed on the implementation of the Special Public Works Programme so far.
“However, there was a misunderstanding between us when they questioned why I did not privately submit the program to them for vetting before taking certain steps. They suggested that they ought to have input on how the programme should be implemented. In other words, they sought to control the programme as to who gets what, where and how.
“However, I insisted that I could not surrender the programme to their control since their powers under the constitution does not extend to that. They insisted on a closed-door session.
“I was then asked to apologise for insisting on public interaction and I said there was nothing to apologise about because their powers to expose corruption provided for in section 88 of the Constitution cannot be exercised in private. As such, there was no need to apologize by insisting on a Constitutional provision. Even their Rules that may provide for private hearings on public matters cannot override the provisions of the Constitution. I was then permitted to leave. I took a bow and left. I NEVER walked out on the respected Committees as they may want to bend the narrative,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said Wednesday that leadership of the National Assembly had begun moves to resolve the crisis between lawmakers and Keyamo.
Buhari had directed agencies not to honour any letter from any appointee or other government official seeking to influence recruitments.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who conveyed Buhari’s position in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, said vacant positions were for all Nigerians.
According to the minister, the President is of the view that using one’s positions to get favour is “antithetical to the character of the administration.”
Mohammed stated, “The President’s repeated warning followed persistent reports of fraudsters using the business cards and purported referral letters from presidential aides and other government officials to solicit employment, contracts and other favours.”