National Assembly has directed that the implementation of the federal government’s 774,000 special public works programme be put on hold until modalities for recruitment of Nigerians for the unskilled jobs are explained to lawmakers by the executive arm.
The federal legislature, while maintaining that it has the powers to direct the stoppage of the programme, which is expected to gulp N52billion already appropriated in the revised 2020 budget, challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to go to court “if he sees that his powers is being encroached.”
Both chambers -Senate and House of Representatives in a joint statement signed by their spokespersons, Senator Ajibola Basiru and Hon. Benjamin O. Kalu, said they were “concerned about the proper and effective implementation of the engagement of 774,000 public works workers and wishes to restate its commitment to its success.”
In the statement, titled “FG Public Works Program Must Benefit Nigerians”, and read to Senate correspondents by Senator Basiru, “the National Assembly reminds members of the public that the Legislature was part of the conception of the programme, approved it and appropriated funds for its implementation as part of the COVID-19 response strategy.”
“The National Assembly, in line with its constitutional oversight function, has mandated its Committees on Labour and Productivity to immediately invite the Hon. Minister for Labour and Productivity and any other relevant officials of the Ministry to appear before the joint committee to brief it on the modality for the implementation of the engagement of 774,000 persons for public works.
“In accordance with the constitutional imperative of oversight, the Legislature being important stakeholders in the democratic process, and elected representatives of the people, needed to be appraised of modalities for implementation for effective feedback to our constituents and in ensuring that our constituents optimally participate in and benefit from the process.
“In view of the foregoing, the implementation of the programme shall be on hold pending proper briefing of the National Assembly by the Minister of Labour and Productivity.
“The National Assembly will ensure transparency of the process just as done with the National Social Register by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and social Development,” the Senate spokesman read.
Responding to a reporter’s question whether the National Assembly has the power or order to direct the stoppage of the programme, Senator Basiru said: “If the Presidency sees that his powers is being encroached they can approach the court of law”, insisting that it is not an exclusively presidential project.
“The conception of the programme, its approval and its funding is with the considered of the National Assembly because we believe it is going to be beneficial for the purpose of addressing the challenges of COVID-19.
“So, your perspective on encroaching on the powers of the President, there is no exclusivity in terms of any programme that is to be implemented except National Assembly is not part of government.
“Government as defined by the 1999 constitution has three components; legislative powers (as contains in) Section 4; executive powers in Section 5 and the judicial power in Section 6. It is the totality of these that constitute government so when you are saying government is doing programme, it is not President Muhammadu Buhari that is doing the programme, it is the government of the people.
“Implementation, appropriation and execution, all rolled into one, there is no dichotomy as such as encroaching on the powers of the President.
“Assuming the National Assembly is opposed to the programme, we could have not approved it, you cannot appropriate but we want to be sure that names don’t just fly.
“When journalists also raised issues about the humanitarian social register and the National assembly intervene there is more transparency to it. Our people will also ask questions, this 1000 people how were they generated, who set up the selection committee, what are the modalities for recruitment, what are the minimum requirements for recruitment.
“It cannot be left to the whims of a person or a branch of a government, it has to be a totality of the government which is the executive and the legislative arm,” the Senator explained.
Recalled that a serious drama played out on Tuesday when the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo was walked out of a meeting by the National Assembly joint Committee on Labour following a shouting match by him and the lawmakers over the modalities to be adopted on the planned 774, 000 unskilled jobs for Nigerians.
The public works programme was designed to employ 1,000 persons from each of the 774 local government areas of the country.
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