By Musa Adamu
Apology came from the Executive arm of government Tuesday to the National Assembly on the lingering crisis over modalities for implementation of the 774,000 jobs proposed in the N10.8trillion revised 2020 budget under the Special Public Works Programme which had N52 billion votes in the budget.
The Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity , Dr Chris Ngige, made the apology during a special visitation he made to the leadership of the Senate and members of the National Assembly joint committee on Labour.
However, while Ngige as substantive Labour Minister tendered the apology, his Minister of State, Festus Keyamo who is at the centre of the crisis, kicked against the apology hours after, vowing to continue driving implementation of the project as against the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), approved by the National Assembly.
Ngige, while tendering apology over the one week old face off between his Ministry and the National Assembly on modalities for implementation of the Special Works programme, told the federal lawmakers to discountenance whatever position earlier taken by his Minister of State on the project.
According to him, the position of Keyamo on modalities for implementation of the project , written or verbal , is not sacrosanct as the National Assembly has the power of approval on any proposal made by the executive.
He said: “We deeply regret the incident that happened at the last visit, the altercations that followed it between my Minister of State and members of the joint committees.
“Therefore, we decided that as a team, we will come in force and give you the necessary information that you will need so that we can fast track this programme.
“My Minister of State has put out a position paper, that position paper, nothing is sacrosanct there. We can still discuss and agree after disagreeing.
“Therefore, Mr Senate President, I apologise on behalf of the Ministry for what took place the last time. And I hope that this apology will be taken by the members of the committee and the entire National Assembly, because I am aware and I know that a committee is a representative of the whole.
“I therefore request that we forgive and forget. Let us turn a new page and start off on this programme.”
In his response, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said though the apology was welcomed as the 9th National Assembly, in line with its legislative agenda, wants harmonious working relationship with the executive arm of government in the general interest of Nigerians, but the truth must be told.
The truth according to him, is that the project is appropriated and approved for NDE to implement and not the Ministry of Labour.
He declared that all actions taken by the Ministry so for on the projects in terms of modalities for implementation or otherwise, are null and void as such actions are expected from the NDE.
“For me this is an opportunity to say the home truth…our committees were right to request for explanation on the modalities. We stand by our committees and we are in support of the suspension of the programme.
“In fact, any action taken before now is null and void. You are now going to start it all over. You said there is need for a fresh start. This is going to be a fresh air.
“From today once you engage and the explanations are accepted then NDE will start to put the structure (in place) because they would have explained how the 20-man selection Committee will be realized”, he said.