IN recent weeks, members of the National Assembly and the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), have been at loggerheads over the Federal Government’s 774,000 jobs scheme under the National Directorate of Employment (NDE). Earlier in the year, President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that the jobs be created in the 774 local government areas of the country, with the minister superintending over it. Each local government area in the country was to have 1,000 job spaces. The beneficiaries would get N60,000 for three months, that is, between October and December this year.
Piqued by certain manifest irregularities in the scheme, the National Assembly directed that the programme be suspended. And not even the appearance of the minister before the National Assembly Committee on Labour helped matters, as he engaged the lawmakers in a hot verbal exchange. The Director-General of the NDE, Nasiru Ladan, had, while speaking on the composition of a 20-man committee inaugurated by the ministry to implement the Special Public Works Programme 2020, failed to impress the lawmakers on the N52 billion budget, asking them to seek further clarifications from the minister. While the committee wanted a private audience with the minister, the minister insisted on a public hearing with the press crew present, particularly as he had been accused of hijacking the scheme from the NDE. As he reasoned, the legislature could not claim to be fighting corruption while at the same time precluding the media from live coverage of the event. Keyamo’s subtle threat to walk out of the meeting further irked the lawmakers who asked him to go if he wanted.
In a subsequent update, Keyamo indicated that senior political operatives in the country had been allocated 15 per cent of the 774,000 Federal Government jobs for poor Nigerians. Thus, 116,100 slots will go to governors, ministers, senators and members of the House of Representatives. In preparation for another round of interactive meeting with the joint committee of the National Assembly on Tuesday, the embattled minister wrote: “In the spirit of transparency and because of the need to be honest before Nigerians, we have said before that we are not unmindful of the fact that political officeholders are also representatives of the people. We cannot also totally ignore them in the selection process. Their constituents are also Nigerians. What we have tried to resist is a total takeover of the programme by politicians and political actors, hence the multi-sectoral composition of the States’ Selection Committees.”
To a large extent, the brickbats between the contending parties touch on the separation of powers. Having approved and appropriated money for the programme in the 2020 budget, the National Assembly had no business asking that it be suspended. This is the implementation stage and it beggars belief that the National Assembly has been trying to teleguide the executive in implementing the scheme. There is no way that such a practice would engender good governance. Implementation of the budget is the job of the executive, not the legislature.
Sadly, however, even the executive too has not lived up to expectations. If anything, the composition of the State Selection Committees has been warped. For instance, members of the said committee in many of the states are well-known members and political enforcers of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), including individuals that do not have broad-based acceptance among the generality of Nigerians. This shows clearly that the government does not mean well. Why make this a party affair? Pray how does the executive expect people to trust such committees? Clearly, the National Assembly’s concern about the composition of the State Selection Committees was not without foundation, even though it should simply have asked for much more broad-based lists instead of deigning to suspend the programme.
Besides, it is strange that the same Keyamo who accused the National Assembly of seeking to hijack the programme for selfish gains later turned around to distribute the same jobs to politicians under the alibi that they are representatives of the people. It is natural to expect that given the typically Nigerian way of doing things, these politicians would simply distribute the job slots to their own party faithful, thus defeating the very essence of the scheme. As far as the 774,000 jobs scheme is concerned, we have found both the legislature and the executive wanting. It is now essentially another job-for-the-boys affair.
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