Expanded Special Public Works remains suspended until… ― Lawan
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan, on Monday, said the Expanded Special Public Works Programme for which the Senate approved N52bn remains suspended until the Minister appears before the Joint committee of the Senate to explain how it will implement the programme along the dictate of the appropriation which domiciled the money with the National Directorate of Employment.
Lawan said this during an interactive session with the Senate Press corps in Abuja.
According to him, the disagreement between the joint committee in Labour, Employment and Productivity of the National Assembly and the minister of state was uncalled for as the legislature has the constitutional mandate to interrogate expenditure it appropriated.
He said the national assembly is the stabiliser of democracy and by extension any government because it is the only body designed to draft laws for the good governance of the country.
He further noted that the relationship between the National Assembly and the executive remained harmonious as only the President defined the Executives, therefore, a disagreement with an appointee of the President does not translate to a misunderstanding with the executive.
He, however, maintained that while the Senate was favourably disposed to programmes that will empower Nigerians, like the Special Public Works initiative to which it made Appropriation, it will not allow the programme to be detailed in implementation especially when the Senate had already identified a competent agency of government with experience to deliver in the mandate.
Lawan said the Senate will continue to interrogate the implementation process for the Special Public Works Programme, entailing recruitment of 774, 000 youths across the 774 local government councils in the country, with a view to making a success of the programme.
He said: “Only one person defines the executive arm of government. Any other person there aside from the Vice President is either recruited or appointed to support that one person.
“That one person is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So if somebody, an employee or an appointee, out of several others, does something that does not show harmony, it will be unfair and uncharitable to say that the executive arm of government is not on the same page with us.
“But let me tell you also here that the National Assembly consciously and patriotically passed the request of the executive for N52billion to undertake the programme on Public Works across the country, where 1,000 youths particularly will be employed in every single local government and that will give you 774,000 people to be employed.
“That was the approval by the National Assembly in the approved budget request of Mr President. When the National Assembly was to pass the request, the National Assembly was conscious through scrutiny that NDE (National Directorate of Employment) will be the agency to implement the programme and we approved that because we know NDE has the capacity to implement the programme.
“So that programme is an NDE programme approved by the National Assembly worth N52billion. Secondly, it is within the purview of our committees to demand an explanation on the process and procedure through which this programme will be implemented. So our joint committee was right. The Committee was right to ask the questions.
“We are meant to interrogate the processes through which such programmes will be implemented. Thirdly, the Committee’s resolve that the programme should be suspended until such explanations is provided on how this programme will be implemented. We stand by that.
“Our purpose is not just to approve money. We insist that only NDE will implement this programme and even the NDE led by the Minister of Employment and Productivity will have to come and explain to the National Assembly Committees how they will implement the programme.
“For us, we have passed the budget, we have approved it, we are going to support the programme because our constituents will be the beneficiaries and if we didn’t like the programme we would not have passed it. So it would be unfair to say that the executive and we in the legislature are not on the same page because of an action by someone out there or among the executive.
“I want the press to understand that what the National Assembly is insisting on is in the national and public interest.
“It is in the national interest that we know what is going on because we passed the N52billion and somebody should explain to us how the processes of selecting the States Selection Committee is, who are the stakeholders, how are they identified and nominated.
“How are the 1,000 beneficiaries from each Local Government going to be selected, how do we measure the success of the programme, how do we key in to support the executive arm of government to succeed in that respect.
“So there is nothing that this is an indication that the executive and the legislature are not on the same page. But this is a programme that Nigerians must benefit and we are representatives of Nigerians we want a complete understanding of how this programme is going to be implemented.”
Lawan also said the national assembly is waiting on the executive to submit the Petroleum Industry Bill(s) for her consideration.
He expressed optimism that the attention that greeted the passage of the Petroleum Sharing Contract (PSC) amendment Act would be extended to the PIB which he said would be in the Senate in two weeks time from the executive.