FEDERAL lawmakers on Tuesday walked out the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, following his refusal to apologise after the legislators accused him of raising his voice against them.
The incident happened at an investigative hearing organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity.
Members of the joint panel had summoned the minister and the Director General of the National Directorate of Employment, Mr. Nasiru Ladan Argungu, to brief them on steps so far taken to recruit 774,000 persons across the country.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, had approved the engagement of 774,000 Nigerians for the Special Public Works programme under the NDE to cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
By the arrangement, 1, 000 Nigerians who would earn N20,000 each on monthly basis for three months are expected to be recruited in each of the 774 local government areas, of the country.
The programme will take off in October this year.
Trouble started when the committee members asked the DG of the NDE, to give explanation on the composition of a 20-member committee per state, inaugurated on Monday by the ministry for the implementation of the planned recruitment
Argungu gave his explanation and disclosed that he was aware of only eight out of the 20-member committee.
He then asked the lawmakers to seek further clarification from the minister.
The lawmakers were not satisfied with Argungu’s explanation, which to them, showed that he was not in control of the programmme.
National Assembly had in the 2020 budget appropriated N52bn for the Special Public Works Programme.
The lawmakers therefore accused Keyamo of hijacking the programme from the NDE and alleging acute lopsidedness in the entire programme.
However, the drama intensified when the lawmakers asked the journalists to excuse them in order to speak in closed session with the minister.
Keyamo rejected the idea and insisted that having been openly accused and disgraced, the cameras should remain in the room.
The minister’s outburst infuriated the lawmakers, who asked that he should apologise for his behaviour.
At that point, Keyamo felt he had done nothing against the procedures of the legislature, hence he had no reason to apologise.
After about 30 minutes of loud arguments from both parties, Keyamo said he would only speak on camera or take his leave.
The minister’s statement further ignited troubles with the lawmakers shouting back at him to go if he wanted.
One of the lawmakers even asked him to leave on time or risked being walked out by the sergeant at arms.
Speaking with journalists after he was walked out, Keyamo accused the lawmakers of trying to take control of the recruitment under his ministry.
According to him, while he was not averse to the investigation of the programme, they (lawmakers) cannot direct him on what to do.
Keyamo said despite granting the lawmakers 15 per cent of the job placement, they still wanted to hijack the entire programme and taking over the power of the President in the process.
“I have said it openly; what do they need more than that? They want to control the programme and I said no, except the President says I should leave it, I will leave it, but they cannot control the programme.
“They can investigate the programme. I can be coming here everyday to explain, but they cannot control it.
“I did not apologise because I did not say anything derogatory; I only insisted that the cameras must be there. There is nothing to apologise for because the Constitution says expose corruption. You cannot expose corruption behind the public.
“What I said is constitutional. They said they have powers to expose; you can’t expose behind closed doors.”
Addressing journalists after the drama, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, who presided over the joint National Assembly panel, denied the two allegations levelled against them by Keyamo.
Rather, he accused Keyamo of allegedly trying to build a political structure of 1,000 youths in each of the 774 local government areas across the country with the 774,000 jobs he was secretly creating without the involvement of the NDE.
He threatened that the National Assembly could suspend the programme if the minister refused to behave himself.
He said, “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.”.