War of words ensued Tuesday between members of the National Assembly joint committee on Labour and the Minister of state for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Mr Festus Keyamo, over modalities for recruitment of the 774, 000 Nigerians into the special public works in the rural areas .
The war of words which lasted for about 30 minutes, culminated into the committee members walking the minister out of the interactive session for refusing to tender an apology as demanded, and the minister accusing them of conniving to hijack the programme.
Trouble started between members of the joint committee led by Senator Godiya Akwashiki (APC Nasarawa North) and the minister, when after making presentations on modalities of recruitments for the programme, excluded the federal lawmakers from it.
The minister had in his submissions before the committee on modalities for recruitment of 1,000 youths per each of the 744 local government councils in Nigeria, listed Christian Association of Nigeria ( CAN), Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), market women association, Traditional Rulers , youth organisations and civil society organisations as pressure groups to be used as channels of recruitment at the grassroots, exclusion of which angered the federal lawmakers.
One of the lawmakers, Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP Rivers South), pointedly asked the minister to explain to the committee on how performance indicators would be determined since they as representatives of the people wre excluded from the recruitment process.
The minister in his response said since the programme will take off in October this year, all the channels of recruitment to be decided upon by a 20- man committee per each state, would serve as a mechanism for the performance indicators.
Angered by the response, the chairman of the committee, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, picked holes in the submission of the minister and that of Director General of National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Nasir Ladan Argungun.
According to him, while the minister mentioned 20 groups to be used as channels for the recruitment, the NDE DG, said he was only aware of eight, meaning that your ministry is hijacking the N52billion programme from NDE, originally saddled with it, going by appropriation made in the 2020 budget.
He thereafter solicited for the session to go into closed door, which was vehemently kicked against by the minister who said, “I came here for open session and not closed session.”
When told that he cannot dictate to them on how the session would be run, Kayamo banged the table by shouting that he won’t go into a closed door session with anybody, and that accusation can not be levelled against him in the open and thereafter, come and make explanations secretly.
Irked by the minister’s outburst, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, moved a motion that the minister should apologise for tackling the committee over rule of proceedings.
Oloriegbe motion which was adopted by the committee, however worsened the situation when he was asked to tender apology by the committee chairman, to which he said no, having not committed any offence or made a derogatory statement against.
At that point, almost every member of the committee stood up, shouting go ! go! go !, to the minister after he failed to apologise.
Pointedly, the committee chairman, Godiya Akwashiki, by way of resolution told the minister that based on a decision taken by the committee, he should leave. Then, Keyamo walked out.
Speaking to journalists after the unceremonious exit, Keyamo said, “What they did not allow me to say inside, I will say outside. Today’s invitation to come here was for an interactive session.
“The inter-ministerial committee recommended a 20-man committee and we approved it. Meanwhile they are comfortable with the eight which are clearly stated like Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Jammatu Nasir Islam (JNI) and others.
“The others are youth organisations and we cannot list youth organisations because from state to state there are different youths organisations depending on the peculiarity of the state.
“The background to this was that a couple of days ago. They started mounting pressure on me that I must bring the list of those to select the 1000 persons from all the local government to them for them to direct me as to what to do from state to state.
“The chairman insisted I must come to them privately for them to hand over to me certain instructions as to how this program will be across the country.
“I said no that would be sharing the powers of the President and that I can only be answerable for what I have done by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution.
“They can only investigate the programme, they cannot direct it.”
However, the federal lawmakers refuted the allegation levelled against them by the minister.