From Sanni Onogu and Victor Oluwasegun, Abuja
The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) is statutorily empowered to recruit 774,000 low skilled Nigerians for the Special Public Works (SPW) scheme, the National Assembly said on Tuesday.
The Senate and the House of Representatives, at separate sessions, argued that the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Kayamo (SAN), can only play a supervisory role.
They emphasised that it was specifically provided in the Appropriation Act that the NDE will implement the programme.
The lawmakers had disagreed over who, between Keyamo and NDE, should handle the recruitment.
Keyamo insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari asked him to carry out the recruitment, but the Senate Committee on Labour and Employment disagreed.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central), insisted in a motion that the scheme’s implementation was under NDE’s purview.
According to him, the N52 billion appropriated for the programme was done under NDE’s budget.
Following the motion, the Senate resolved to carry out its oversight function on the programme’s implementation by the NDE.
It praised the President for “placing a premium on the harmonious and cordial relationship between the executive and legislative arms of governments by directing functionaries of the executive arm of government from doing anything or making utterances capable of jeopardizing the harmonious relationships between the executive and legislative arms”.
The resolution reads: “That realising that the revised appropriation Act is a law binding on all arms of government, the appropriation of the sum of N52 billion for the 774,000 public works workforce is vested in the National Directorate of Employment and therefore must be implemented accordingly again while acknowledging the supervisory role of the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
“That the Senate will execute its oversight function on the implementation of the programme by the NDE of the 774,000 public works workforce in line with the Appropriation Act, the Constitution and other enabling laws.”
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the National Assembly stood by its position that NDE is entirely responsible for the implementation of the programme according to the law.
“The ministry has a supervisory role and the National Assembly has the oversight function,” Lawan said.
Senate spokesman Ajibola Basiru said because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s intervention, the lawmakers were no longer calling for the programme’s suspension.
“But, we are insisting that the legality and the constitutionality of the programme must be followed to the letter and that the Appropriation Act is not just a manifesto. It’s a legal instrument that must be followed,” he said.
The House of Representatives urged the Ministry of Finance not to release any funds for the programme, if it would breach the due process, Appropriation Act 2020 (As Amended) as well as the NDE Act.
The resolution followed the passage of a motion by the Deputy Minority leader, Toby Okechukwu and Nnolim Nnaji.
Nnaji said: “The House is aware that Section 2 of the NDE Act unambiguously vests in the agency the responsibility to, among other key aims and objectives, design and implement programmes to combat mass unemployment.”
He emphasised that the Appropriation Act 2020 specifically names NDE as the implementing agency for the programme.
Nnaji said the Executive, in proposing the programme, could have clearly named the Ministry of Labour, not the NDE, as the implementing authority in the 2020 budget, if it so wished.
Besides, he said the NDE has been in operation for about 23 years and has the professionals and requisite technical staff to implement such policies.