Amidst raging row between the legislature and the executive over the planned 774,000 jobs under the special works programme, the federal government Tuesday announced the commencement of the recruitment drive.
The programme, which is one of the major ways of cushioning the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, seeks to employ 1000 citizens each across the 774 local government areas in the country.
Announcing the plan to kick-start the N52 billion programme on its twitter handle Tuesday, the federal government said: “The Special Public Works Programme of the federal government has kicked off nationwide. The State Selection Committees have been inaugurated and have commenced work.”
The decision to begin the programme is coming amidst the feud generated between the Labour Ministry and the National Assembly over the modalities to get the jobs in place.
And just a week ago, the National Assembly asked that the programme be suspended if the ministry was not ready to explain the modalities.
About two weeks ago, Minister of State for Labour Festus Keyamo, and the joint National Assembly committee on labour, at a public hearing, engaged in verbal war over the planned employment.
The project was captured in the 2020 budget with the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) as driver of the process.
While Keyamo accused the lawmakers of wanting to hijack the process, the lawmakers on the other hand claimed the minister was planning to form a 774,000 political vanguard using the youth.
Although the committee requested Keyamo to tender an apology, he however refused, saying he did not offend anybody to have warranted any apology of sort.
At this point, the minister was dismissed from the session by the angry lawmakers who said the programmes remained suspended.
Consequent upon this, Minister of Labour Chris Ngige and other relevant officials of the ministry were invited to brief the joint committee on the modalities for the implementation of the programme.
Ngige, also a former senator, not only briefed members of the committee and Senate President Ahmad Lawan, he also apologised on behalf of Keyamo after which the latter was asked to stay off the project and allow the NDE to be on the driver’s seat.
But as Ngige was apologising to the lawmakers, Keyamo fired another salvo, saying he would approach the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami for a constitutional interpretation of the NDE Act which he chairs.
He described the controversy around the programme as a plan to shove him aside in the implementation of the project.
And with the announcement to carry on with the programme, there are indications that Keyamo must have gotten the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari to press on with the implementation process.
Efforts by Blueprint to get the comments of spokesman of the Senate, Senator Ajibola Bahsir, and the chairman of the joint committee, Senator Godiya Akwashiki proved abortive.