774,000 jobs: Keyamo defies House Committee, orders Public Works Selection Committees to continue work

• Says only President has legal powers to stop process

Following the suspension of work of the Selection Committees of the Special Public Works Programme nationwide on Tuesday by the Joint Committees on Labour of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), has ordered that the committee should continue its work, adding that only the President can stop them under the law.

The Joint Committees had purportedly suspended the work of the Selection Committees nationwide until they decide how the programme should be run and who should be in the committees.

Keyamo had however argued that this action is tantamount to challenging the powers of the President as their powers under Section 88 of the 1999 constitution is only limited to investigations and not to give any directive to the executive.

According to the minister, “committee or committees of both Houses do not even have powers to pass binding resolutions. They can only make recommendations to plenary. In this case, even plenary cannot give directives to the executive.

“All my life, I have fought for good governance and constitutional democracy. I will not come into government and be intimidated to abandon those principles. I will rather leave this assignment if Mr. President so directs than compromise the jobs meant for ordinary Nigerians who have no godfathers or who are not affiliated to any political party.

“I, therefore, respectfully further direct all the Committees set up nationwide made up of CAN, NSCIA, NURTW, market women, CSOS, youth organisations, respected traditional rulers, etc to proceed with their work unhindered. Only Mr. President can stop their work,” Keyamo stated.

Keyamo had appeared before the Joint Committees on Labour of both the Senate and the House of Representatives in obedience to their invitation that he should appear to brief them on how far his ministry had gone the implementation of the Special Public Works Programme on the selection process of 774,000 jobs.

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He explained that there was a misunderstanding between him and the committee when they questioned him on why he did not privately submit the program to the committee for vetting before taking certain steps.

“They suggested that they ought to have an input on how the programme should be implemented. In other words, they sought to control the programme as to who gets what, where and how. However, I insisted that I could not surrender the programme to their control since their powers under the constitution do not extend to that. They insisted on a closed-door session.

“At this point, I remarked that it was only fair for me to respond to their position before the press since their own position was also made public. In any case, I remarked that the Nigerian people deserve to know the details of the execution of this all-important programme. I was then asked to apologise for insisting on public interaction and I said there was nothing to apologise about because their powers to expose corruption provided for in Section 88 of the constitution cannot be exercised in private,” he said.

Keyamo explained further that there was no need to apologise based on the provisions of the constitution, adding that even the rules that may provide for private hearings on public matters cannot override the provisions of the constitution.

He stated further that he never walked out on the committee, adding that “I was then permitted to leave. I took a bow and left. I never walked out on the respected committees as they may want to bend the narrative.”

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