There was rowdy session in the National Assembly on Tuesday when the Minister of state for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, and lawmakers openly traded words over 774,000 employment slots by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE)’s recruitment exercise.
Disagreement erupted when the Director General of the NDE, Nasiru Ladan Argungu, could not defend the N52bn budgeted for the recruitments of 774,000 Nigerians under the agency.
Keyamo had appeared before the National Assembly joint committee on labour and employment.
The lawmakers – members of the joint committee, said they could not understand how the Minister arrived at selection of 20 persons per state to coordinate the public work committee on the NDE employment.
But the minister who failed to proffer adequate explanations however, boasted that the lawmakers lack powers to question the constitution of the committee.
Trouble started when the Director-General of the NDE, Argungu said he only have knowledge of the constitution of eight, out of the twenty member committee.
According to him, the remaining twelve members of the committee was solely enhanced by the minister, Keyamo.
This confused the lawmakers who threw decorum in the wind, and accused the minister of shady deal.
But Keyamo insisted that his ministry was asked to supervise the recruitments by the President, Muhammadu Buhari.
However, the lawmakers disagreed with Keyamo and asked him to expatiate on the modalities he employed to carry out the recruitment process, especially the constitution of the 20 member committee per state.
Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Godiya Akwashiki further ruled that the meeting be moved into a closed session,without journalists.
But Keyamo vehemently resisted, and insisted that journalists must cover the session.
This is where the lawmakers got angry and unanimously alleged that Kayamo was attempting to bend their rules, in order to dictate the proceedings.
The lawmakers asked Keyamo to apologize for the action but he openly refused.
Keyamo’s refusal to apologise led to another round of hot exchange of words. The rowdiness lasted for about an hour.
Angrily, Keyamo walked out of the joint committee. In an interview, he told journalists that the lawmakers were intimidating him because he refused to allow them hijack the employment process.
His words: “The background to this was that a couple of days ago, they (lawmakers)started mounting pressure on me that I must bring the list of those to select the 1,000 persons from all the local government for them to direct me on what to do.
“The Chairman insisted that I must come to them privately for them to hand over to me certain instructions as to how this programme will be done across the country, I said no, that will be sharing the powers of the President.
“I can only be answerable for what I have done by virtue of the constitution. I am not questioning their powers to investigate.
“I fully agree to the powers of the National Assembly to investigate for the purpose of exposing corruption and that is the point I made that they said I should apologize for saying we should not allow the cameras to go out.
Keyamo continued: “I am answerable to the Nigerian people and they are also answerable to Nigerian people, I did not see the need for an executive session. In a matter like this involving 774,000 Nigerians, the press must know what is going on, you can not accuse me publicly of a lopsided issue and close the door.
“This is the point I made, that I want to say what I want to say in the cameras. I did not insult them, I did not use any derogatory words, I only insisted that we should do this publicly for Nigerians to see the root of the matter.
“And the root of the matter, Nigerians, is that they want me to bring the entire programme to the committees, for them to direct as to how it will be executed. And that is not their powers,they don’t have such powers to direct me, they can only investigate what we have done,” he stated.
In a swift reaction, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity, Godiya Akwashiki, while addressing newsmen denied the allegations levelled against them by Keyamo.
“We invited them to brief us on special works under NDE, and the 8 pilot states selected by Mr President. They said they have done six states and it was remaining two states.
“N52 billion approved under NDE, on how far they have gone because we read in the newspapers that a committee of 20 persons had been constituted across the state to execute the social workers programme under NDE and we disagreed with him on how he selected the 20 persons.
“The NDE Director was only privy to the selection of 8 persons in the committee, so the Director General of NDE is not aware of the other 12 persons selected and this is best known to the minister., so there is no justice on the selection. Our main aim is to check the executive.”