WorldStage Newsonline– Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo has insisted that the Constitution empowers his office to supervise the execution of the Special Public Works Programme of the Federal Government.
Keyamo in an interview with newsmen, after the Senate Committee on Labour called for a new proposal to implement the project said the directives by the National Assembly as to the execution of the project was not binding on him.
According to him, “The distinguished members of the National Assembly, I believe, are the lawmakers and they desire to comply strictly with the provisions of the law.”
The Senate Committee on Labour had in a meeting with the Senate President Ahmad Lawan and the Ministers of Labour declared that the earlier proposal on implementation of the project presented by Keyamo was null and void.
Senate at the meeting directed the Director-General of National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Dr Nasiru Mohammed, to present a new proposal for the programme’s implementation, insisting the NDE must implement the programme and not the Ministry.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had also at the meeting apologised to the Senate on the ministry’s behalf, noting that Keyamo’s position on the project was not sacrosanct.
Keyamo said: “But now, it is important that all of you and all Nigerians should go back and read the NDE Act.
“You can see that the whole struggle today is about how to bypass me in the execution of this programme.
“With the provision of the law, I don’t know how they are going to go about that.
“I have to go back to my principal, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who gives directives.
“By provision of Section 2 (3) of the NDE Act, I am the Chairman of the board of the NDE. So, when you say NDE should go back and bring their plan, it will come back to me because I am still the Chairman of the NDE.
“Also, if you look at Section 15 of the NDE Act, the Minister may give directive of a general nature to the NDE. In other words, you cannot even do a work plan without coming back to the Minister.
“Again, the third point is that by virtue of my appointment as Minister, the President gave a directive in October 2019 that I should go and supervise generally the activities of the NDE .
“So, I have quoted the position of the law and the presidential mandate in this regard.
“The fourth point is that beyond the general mandate, the President specifically instructed me by memo in May for me to go and supervise the preparation and execution of this project.
“The last and the most important is that, according to Section 16(1) of the NDE Act, by the instruction of the Presidency, an inter-ministerial committee has already proposed that a local committee must drive this selection process.
“We can not stay here in Abuja and select 1,000 persons per local government.
“So, if you look at Section 15(1), it says the Minister shall constitute committees for the NDE.
“The NDE Director-General has no such powers to constitute committees by law.
“So, when you say `go back and do your work plan and come’, are you telling the Director-General to break the law? Are you telling him to disobey his appointee which is the President?
“Are you telling the Director-General to disobey his immediate boss which is the Minister?
“That is where we are on this issue. So, I will go back to my employer, which is the President. The president will give directives.”
Keyamo said, “This is a great Constitutional issue that will go to the Attorney-General at the end of the day for interpretation.
“Just like I said, if the Presidency says I should step aside and allow them hijack the process, because the game as you have seen today is simply that they are conniving with certain functionaries of government to design the programme and hijack it against the wishes of Nigerians, then that is it.
“That is what I have been against, and I will continue to stand by that. They are very distinguished members, but the law is the law, and our Constitution is the Constitution. ”
The NDE Director-General, Dr Nasiru Ladan, also in an interview with newsmen said: “As far as we are concerned, the job is the sole responsibility of the NDE, from the planning process to the execution.
“The N52 billion appropriated by the National Assembly is in the NDE, and by the powers given to us by the National Assembly, I owe it as a pirority to the programme.”
He said the 20-man state selection committee earlier constituted to drive the selection of the 774,000 potential beneficiaries of the jobs stands null and void.