Apology came from the executive arm of government Tuesday to the National Assembly on the lingering crisis over modalities for implementation of the 774,000 jobs proposed in the N10.8trillion revised 2020 budget under the Special Public Works Programme which had N52billion votes in the budget .
The Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, made the apology during a special visitation he made to the leadership of the Senate and members of the National Assembly joint committee on Labour.
However, while Ngige as substantive Labour Minister tendered the apology , his Minister of State, Festus Keyamo who is at the centre of the crisis, kicked against the apology hours after , vowing to continue driving implementation of the project as against the National Directorate of Employment ( NDE) , approved by the National Assembly.
Ngige while tendering an apology over the one week old face off between his Ministry and the National Assembly on modalities for implementation of the Special Works programme , told the federal lawmakers to discountenance whatever position earlier taken by his Minister of State on the project .
According to him, the position of Keyamo on modalities for implementation of the project , written or verbal , is not sacrosanct as the National Assembly has the power of approval on any proposal made by the executive .
He said: “We deeply regret the incident that happened at the last visit, the altercations that followed 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. And 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.”
In his response, the President of the Senate , Ahmad Lawan, said though the apology was welcomed as the 9th National Assembly in line with its legislative agenda, wants a harmonious working relationship with the Executive arm of government in the general interest of Nigerians but the truth must be told .
The truth, according to him, is that the project was appropriated and approved for NDE to implement and not the Ministry of Labour .
He declared that all actions taken by the Ministry so far on the projects in terms of modalities for implementation or otherwise, are null and void as such actions are expected from the NDE.
“For me this is an opportunity to say the home truth…our committees were right to request for explanation on the modalities. We stand by our committees and we are in support of the suspension of the programme.
“In fact, any action taken before now is null and void. You are now going to start it all over. You said there is a need for a fresh start. This is going to be fresh air.
“From today once you engage and the explanations are accepted then NDE will start to put the structure (in place) because they would have explained how the 20-man selection Committee will be realized”, he said .
But hours later, like an enfant terrible, the Minister of State, Festus Keyamo, after another encounter with the joint committee , insisted that he stood by his earlier position .
He said: “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 and all Nigerians should go back and read the National Directorate of employment act, you can see that the whole struggle today is how to bypass me in the execution of this program.
“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 to give directives.
“By provision of section 2 (3) of the NDE act I am the chairman of the board of the NDE. The minister is the chairman of the board of 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 .
“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 not 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 functionary of Government to design the program, hijack the program against the wishes of Nigerians and that is what I have been against and I will continue to stand by that.
“The senate can not give directive to the executive and the President will give directive, there is only one President in Nigeria there are no two presidents.”