Nigeria: 774,000 Jobs - National Assembly Wants Recruitment Halted

A day after lawmakers had a public spat with a minister, the National Assembly has 'ordered' a stop to the recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians under the Public Works Programme until the modalities for the exercise have been explained to the lawmakers.

It also mandated its Committees on Labour and Employment to immediately invite the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, and any other relevant officials of the ministry to brief the joint committee on the modalities for the implementation of the engagement of 774,000 persons for public works - in line with its constitutional oversight function.

The lawmakers disclosed their stance through a joint statement by the spokespersons of the Senate and House of Representatives, Ajibola Basiru and Benjamin Kalu.

This comes a day after an altercation between members of the joint committee and the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, over recruitments under the programme.

But the lawmakers said their directive was because the National Assembly was concerned about "the proper and effective implementation of the engagement of 774,000 public workers and wishes to restate its commitment to its success."

"The National Assembly reminds members of the public that the legislature was part of the conception of the programme, approved it and appropriated funds for its implementation as part of the COVID-19 response strategy.

"... In view of the foregoing, the implementation of the programme shall be on hold pending proper briefing of the National Assembly by the Minister of Labour and Productivity.

"The National Assembly will ensure transparency of the process just as done with the National Social Register by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and social Development," part of the statement read. The statement, however, did not state a time and date for the minister to appear before the committee.

The lawmakers, by Nigerian law, do not have the power to order a stop to the implementation of an already signed budget or law. Only the Nigerian president can give such order. However, President Muhammadu Buhari has given no indication he wants the programme halted.

The federal government, on Tuesday, announced committees nationwide to commence the implementation of the programme.

Before the government's Tuesday announcement, Mr Keyamo was, on Tuesday, involved in a heated argument with members of a joint committee of the national assembly - an act which a senator, Ifeanyi Ubah, described as a display of rascality.

Mr Keyamo had also directed all the committees set up nationwide made up of CAN, NSCIA, NURTW, market women, CSOS, youth organisations, traditional rulers, etc to proceed with their work unhindered, adding that the joint committee has no power to suspend or decide how the programme should be run as that will be "challenging the powers of the president."

PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported the clash between Mr Keyamo and the lawmakers at a meeting he had with the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Employment and Labour. The meeting was aimed at discussing the progress of the planned employment of 774,000 Nigerians by the federal government.

The National Assembly had in the 2020 budget appropriated N52 billion for the Special Public Works Programme aimed at employing 774,000 citizens, a thousand from each of the 774 local government areas in the country.

My Keyamo had accused the lawmakers of wanting to sabotage the recruitment process despite receiving 15 per cent jobs slots.

In their statement on Wednesday, the lawmakers did not deny that allegation of taking 15 per cent of the jobs for their cronies.

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