By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Senators and members of the House of Representatives yesterday engaged the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, in near fisticuffs following their inability to reach a deal on how the 774,000 job slots created by President Muhammadu Buhari for the dwellers in the local governments, should be shared among them.
The situation which degenerated into exchange of abusive words and shouting match, ended up in the Federal lawmakers walking the Minister out of the hearing room before it will be too late.
A heated exchange of verbal salvos lasted for about 30 minutes, culminated into the Minister storming out of the interactive session and accusing the lawmakers of perfecting plans to hijack the programme as usual, which he vowed to vehemently resist.
Trouble started between members of the joint committee led by Senator Godiya Akwashiki (APC Nasarawa North) and the Minister, when after making presentations on modalities of recruitments for the programme, excluded the federal lawmakers from it.
The Minister had in his submissions before the committee on modalities for recruitment of 1,000 youths per 744 local government councils in Nigeria, listed Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Market women Association, Traditional Rulers, Youth organisations and civil society organisations as pressure groups to be used as channels of recruitment at the grassroots.
This exclusion of the lawmakers angered the federal lawmakers, hence they all went beserk and descended on the Minister for not allowing them to nominate their constituents to takeover the jobs.
One of the lawmakers, Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP Rivers South), pointedly asked the Minister to explain to the committee on how performance indicators would be determined since they, as representatives of the people, are excluded from the recruitment process.
The Minister in his response said since the programme will take off in October this year, all the channels of recruitments to be decided upon by 20-man committee per each state, would serve as mechanism for the performance indicators.
Angered by the response, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Godiya Akwashiki picked holes in the submission of the Minister and that of Director General of National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Nasir Ladan Argungun.
According to him, while the Minister mentioned 20 groups to be used as channels for the recruitment, the NDE DG, said he was only aware of 8, meaning that the ministry is hijacking the N52billion programme from NDE, originally saddled with it, going by Appropriation made in the 2020 budget.
He there after solicited for the session to go into closed door, which was vehemently kicked against by the Minister who said, “I came here for open session and not closed session”.
When told that he cannot dictate to them on how the session would be run, Kayamo banged the table by shouting that he won’t go into closed door session with anybody and that accusation cannot be levelled against him in the open and there after, come and make explanations secretly.
Irked by the Minister’s outburst, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe moved motion that the Minister should apologise for tackling the committee over rule of proceedings.
Oloriegbe motion which was adopted by the committee, which however worsened the situation when he was asked to tender apology by the committee Chairman, to which he said no, having not committed any offence or made derogatory statement against them.
At that point, hell was let loose as almost every member of the committee stood up, shouting, go ! go! go !, to the Minister if he cannot apologise.
Pointedly, the Committee chairman, Godiya Akwashiki, by way of resolution, told the Minister that based on decision taken by the committee, if he cannot apologise, he should leave, to which he responded to by storming out of the session.
Speaking to journalists after he exited, Keyamo said: “What they did not allow me to say inside? I will say outside. Today’s invitation to come here was for an interactive session and I came here.
“The inter-ministerial committee recommended 20 man committee and we approved it. Meanwhile they are comfortable with the eight which are clearly stated like Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Jammatu Nasir Islam (JNI) and others.
“The others are youth organisations and we cannot list youth organisations because from state to state, there are different youths organisations depending on the peculiarity of the state.
“The background to this was that a couple of days ago. They started mounting pressure on me that I must bring the list of those to select the 1000 persons from all the local government to them for them to direct me as to what to do from state to state.
“The chairman insisted I must come to them privately for them to hand over to me certain instructions as to how this program will be across the country.
“I said no, that would be sharing the powers of the President and that I can only be answerable for what I have done by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution. They can only investigate the programme, they cannot direct it “.
However, the federal lawmakers refuted the allegation levelled against them by the Minister as explained Senator Akwashiki in his apparently face saving speech.
He said : “As a national Assembly our main duty is to check the executive arm of government body the appropriation Act that allows for spending federation account has said that this money should be spent by the National Directorate if employment under the ministry.
“After all that has been said we asked him to apologise to the committee because we have the rules of proceeding here and that we are all in agreement that if he does not apologise to us he can excuse himself or we suspend this programme of the Federal government upon which he left”