. National Assembly’s order on 774,000 jobs not binding on me – Keyamo
Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, on Tuesday, apologised to the National Assembly over last week’s spat between lawmakers and the Minister of State in the Ministry, Festus Keyamo, at a joint committee meeting.
Ngige tendered the apology when he led Keyamo to a meeting with the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan.
The minister appealed to the lawmakers on Keyamo’s behalf, urging them to overlook his mistake and rather work for the success of the national assignment given to them.
The faceoff between Kayamo and the National Assembly members last week forced the lawmakers to suspend the recruitment of 774, 000 Nigerians in the Special Public Works Programme 2020 being undertaken by the Ministry.
Ngige said, “We deeply regret the incident that happened at the last visit, the altercations that followed it between my Minister of State and members of the joint committees.
“Therefore, we decided that as a team, we will come in force and give you the necessary information that you will need so that we can fast track this programme.
“My minister of state has put out a position paper, that position paper, nothing is sacrosanct there. We can still discuss and agree after disagreeing.
“Therefore, Mr Senate President, I apologise on behalf of the ministry for what took place the last time.
“I hope that this apology will be taken by the members of the committee and the entire National Assembly, because I’m aware and I know that a committee is a representative of the whole.
“I, therefore, request that we forgive and forget. Let us turn a new page and start off on this programme.”
But after the brief meeting with the Senate President, Keyamo told journalists that only President Muhammadu Buhari could order him to halt the recruitment process.
He said, “First of all, may I say that this distinguished National Assembly, I believe that they are the lawmakers and they desire to comply strictly with the provisions of the law.
“Now, it is important that all of you read the National Directorate of Employment Act. You can see that the whole struggle today has been how to bypass me in the execution of this programme and I’m sure that you all saw that.
“Now, with the provisions of the law, how they are going to do that, I don’t know. I have to go back to my principal, which is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to get directives.
“By Section 3 of the NDE Act, I am the Chairman of the Board. The Minister is the chairman of the Board of the NDE.
“When you say go back and bring a plan, you are still coming back to me.
“Secondly, if you look at section 15 of the NDE Act, it said the Minister may give directives of a general nature to the NDE. In other words, you cannot have a work plan without coming back to the Minister.
“The third point is that by virtue of my appointment as a Minister, the President gave a directive in October last year saying that I should go and supervise generally the activity of the NDE.
Keyamo added, “I don’t see how I will supervise an agency and they will go ahead without approval, the bulk must stop at a table.
“The fourth one, beyond the general mandate the President gave, he also specifically instructed me through a memo in May this year, to go and supervise the execution of this project.
“How can I supervise a project without my final approval? That approval lies on my table.
“S, when you say go back and bring a plan, are you asking that the DG of NDE should go and break the law?
“Are you saying the DG should disobey the President? Are you saying the DG should disobey his immediate boss, which is his Minister?
“I will go back to the President for directives. The directives as to the execution of a project is not binding on me.
“The directives of the National Assembly is not binding on me. This is an issue that will go to the Attorney-General at the end of the day for interpretation.”