The House of Representatives Tuesday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Chris Ngige recognised by the Constitution and National Directorate on Employment (NDE) Act to live up to his lawful responsibility of supervising the NDE, ensuring non-interference and meddlesomeness by any person in the running of the agency.
The House also asked the Ministry of Finance not to release any funds for the implementation of the Special Public Works programme if it would breach the due process, Appropriation Act 2020 (As Amended) as well as the NDE Act.
These resolutions followed the adoption of a motion, titled, ‘On the Need to uphold the National Directorate on Employment (NDE) Act in the implementation of the special public works programme,’ sponsored by Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu and Nnolim Nnaji (PDP, Enugu).
Moving the motion, Okechukwu Section 2 of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Act unambiguously vests in the agency the responsibility to, among other key aims and objectives, design and implement programmes to combat mass unemployment.
He noted that the Appropriation Act 2020 is clear that the NDE is the implementing agency for the Special Public Works programme and captured it as follows, “Public Works Programme (1000 persons per LGA for 36 States and Area Councils of FCT-774,000 persons” for the sum of N52,000,000,000.
Okechukwu pointed out that since the Executive proposed the programme, it could have clearly named the Ministry of Labour, not the NDE, as the implementing authority in the 2020 budget if it so wished.
He stressed that the supervisory powers conferred on the Minister of Labour by Section 15 of the NDE Act do not condone any abnormalities or allow the Minister to do so without regards to the law.
The lawmaker said he was: “Aware that the NDE, being a creation of the law, has been in operation for about 23 years and has the professionals and requisite technical staff to implement government policies, including the Special Public Works programme, an initiative on which it has conducted a pilot study in 8 states of the Federation, hence the domiciliation of the programme with the agency.
”Mindful that of the high economic consequences for the country to resort to ad hoc arrangements that may not be accountable tomorrow rather than make use of the NDE being an interventionist agency created by law. Also mindful of the grave developments in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, where the Executive recruited an Interim Management Committee, IMC, instead of inaugurating the NDDC Board as submitted by Mr President and approved by the Senate.
”Also aware that by our laws as presently constituted, the NDE is an implementing agency with the Minister of Labour, not Minister of State, an aberration and indeed an entity unknown to the law, is the supervising Minister. Mindful that the term “Minister of State” is not a creation of Section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. This may therefore be the reason for the refusal of the Minister of State to be guided on the method adopted by Parliament for its proceedings and his assertion that “only Mr. President can stop our work”, not our laws nor our institutions.”
Okechukwu expressed concerns that this attitude may jeopardize the capacity of the National Assembly to oversight and ensure prudence as enshrined in sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution.
He reiterated that the House commitment to prevent any mischief, wastage of scarce public resources, lack of accountability and defeat of the aims and objectives of the programme.