July 1 2020 is one day that would not go into oblivion too quickly in the minds of members of the National Assembly on one hand, the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the bemused public on the other hand.
The National Assembly joint Committee on Labour and Productivity had set that day apart to publicly hear from the Minister of State for Labour and Employment on how the 774000 thousand jobs under the Special Public Works for itinerant workers would be implemented.
And Keyamo,activist and confidence exuding lawyer, skilled with tactical defense of a course he believed in that is of public interest, walked into the hall of the public hearing with a greater part of his face cladded obviously in accordance with the new Norm.
The public hearing kicked off and then there was commotion,voices were raised, the lawmakers shouted, Keyamo replied in the manner of a “generalissimo”. “I won’t apologise echoed in the hall.” The Lawmakers asked him to take his leave,he did but not without leaving a sour impression on members of the ‘Hallowed House’ who had organised the public hearing without the mindset that Keyamo is a hard nut to crack.
In the aftermath of the public hearing, Keyamo told a waiting media team outside of what transpired at his meeting with the lawmakers.He said the honourable members had questioned him why he did not submit the Public Works Programme to them for vetting before taking certain steps,they suggested to have input on how the programme should be run, that is to say that they wanted total control of the programme.
Keyamo had said several times to whoever had ears that he would not allow politicians to hijack the jobs away from the common man.
The first time he said it, people who had good knowledge of his hard stance presumed a clash between him and the political class and were not surprised by what played out at the public hearing.
How 774,000 rural jobs scheme started, in a bid to lessen the impact of poverty among the vulnerable group at the rural areas who lack job opportunities.The Buhari government in October 2019, approved a pilot special public works programme under the National Directorate of Employment.
The Special Public Works Programme is a technique adapted from a capacity building collaboration of the Ministry of labour and the International Labour Organization ( ILO).
As said, the Public Works Programme aimed to mitigate unemployment at the grassroots.
It was meant to provide stipend for a population of unemployed people who could undertake maintenance of public and local Infrastructures within a period of three months.
The pilot scheme was approved for 5 local government areas in eight states namely Adamawa, Borno, Ebonyi,Edo, Ekiti, Jigawa, Katsina and Kwara.Beneficiaries were said to be engaged in digging ,clearing drainages, clearing of irrigation canals and rural feeder roads maintenance.
Seeing the plight of Nigerians under Covid-19 particularly those who do not have regular source of income,the Buhari government on Monday April 6, 2020 extended the Programme to all the 36 states and the federal capital territory, Abuja.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed who announced the government’s decision said that the new phase of the special public works is directed at cushioning the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Expectedly the Ministry in charge of labour Matters has sprung into action. Committees have been formed at the national and state levels to give direction to the special programme in the selection process of the 1000 persons that would benefit from each local government area of the country
20 member commitee including a Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary have been constituted across states to select those that would be engaged in the Programme with focus on social housing construction, urban and rural sanitation, and other critical services.
However the visionary Programme of the Buhari government appears not to see a light at the end of the tunnel yet, it appears that the hallowed men and women won’t budge even where Keyamo, their albatross had said that some percentage of the public works had been allocated to them.
For purpose of Justice and fairplay,
Keyamo also needs to share in the blame if the jobs which are to begin in October are delayed or failed to start.
Firstly in dealing with Honourable members of the House of Representative’s and the Senate,it behoves Keyamo to learn rudiments of how to foster relationship with them.This is very important for Ministers who do not want their projects delayed or not implemented.
Secondly the members of the National Assembly are protective of one another and would say “Nay” to anything at variance with their common interest. They would stop at nothing in deploying instruments that would reduce ‘audacities’ of any kind to pieces.
Much was seen from the reaction of the unassuming gentleman, Ahmed Lawan who assumed the coveted seat of Senate Presidency of the 9th Senate in 2019.
Senator Lawan had suspended the special public works Programme following the face off between Minister Keyamo and the federal law makers.
Lawan said his colleagues were right in investigating the Programme in the area of implementation and announced that the Programme remain suspended until the Executive explains the process and procedure through which the Programme would be implemented.
As anyone whose pride is wounded,ego bursted would do,a meeting which saw a second missionary journey of Keyamo aimed to interface on grey areas and strengthen ties, ended without desirable outcomes.
The plea for understanding,the apologies by Dr Chris Ngige the Senior Minister of the Ministry of Labour and Employment fell on deaf ears as the Senate President Lawan, maintained the suspension and even transferred responsibility of implementation of the Programme to the National Directorate of Employment. (NDE).
An excited Nasiru Ladan Mohammed Argungu Director General of the NDE was waiting in the wings of the National Assembly to take responsibility of implementation of the programme from the Ministers as directed by the Senate President, however, since the NDE, is under the supervision of the ministry,it was an exercise in futility.
The Presidency had waded into the matter. Barely a day after the face off between the Minister of State for Labour and Employment and the joint team of National Assembly investigating the public works, President Buhari asked the political class not to use their position to divert jobs meant for the poor and described such acts as antithetical to the character of his administration.
The Next Step
Buhari has said it all that those jobs are only meant for the very poor.Those jobs are intervention Programme to alleviate poverty. What this means is that it does not require excessively complicated procedures to achieve its objectives.
According to National Bureau of Statistics, almost 100 million of about 200million Nigerians live on less than $1 a day.
Quartz Africa revealed that Nigeria has the highest rate of extreme poverty globally.
The revelations about the poverty rates are alarming and call for reasoning. For the sake of the poverty stricken masses, for love of humanity, for love of brotherhood there is need for our Lawmakers to bury the hatchet and allow the ministry in which the project is domiciled to implement it.
Frequent accusations of the hallowed chambers by Ministries and Parastatals for alleged corrupt practices is unhealthy and dishonorable.
Let caution prevail.