Senate President, Ahmad Lawan earlier today received in audience the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige who came on a courtesy visit with a delegation of the ministry and officials of the National Directorate of Employment.
During the visit, Senator Ngige said he was at the National Assembly to make some clarifications regarding the Public Works Programme of the ministry over which an altercation ensued between the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo and the National Assembly Joint Committee on Labour.
He said the ministry deeply regrets the incidence that happened and the altercation that followed which was why he decided to come with his team at the ministry to give all the necessary information to fast track the programme.
“We must work hand-in-hand without acrimony or even drawing a very rigid line of who has this power and who doesn’t. That is the only way the programmes of government can be made sustainable and executed for the benefit of our people,” Senator Ngige said.
While emphasizing the importance of the Public Works Programme especially at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Ngige said the the implementation cannot be done without the National Assembly because they have the power of the purse.
Recalling how the 7th and the 8th National Assembly related with the executive arm of government, Senator Ngige said the executive has enjoyed a good working relationship with the 9th assembly and so everything must be done to sustain that relationship.
During the “Eight National Assembly, we had a very terrible experience for the legislature and executive, because when you go into such wars, wars are fought with bullets and you do not know who these bullets will touch.”
“Many people became casualties to the extent that even the head of the legislature at the time had to be taken to the Code of Conduct for criminal charges and trial.
“Today, in the Ninth Senate, we are enjoying a robust relationship with the legislature. Some of us who have passed through this institution, will do everything possible to maintain that relationship.”
While tendering the apology of the ministry, he said nothing in the position paper put out by his Minister of State is sacrosanct as everything will still be discussed and both parties agreeing to disagree.
“Therefore, Mr. President, I apologize on behalf of my Ministry for what took place the last time, and I hope this apology will be taken by members of the Committee and the entire National Assembly,.”
“I’m aware and I know that a Committee is a representative of the whole. The committee room is an extension of our hallowed chambers.”
“I, therefore, request that we forgive and forget. Let us turn a new page and start off on this Programme which the National Assembly has indicated that they’ve suspended. We can’t suspend forever programmes that affect our people.”
Responding, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan thanked the minister for the visit and frowned at the attempt by the ministry to implement a programme that was approved for the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
Lawan said the National Assembly approved the N52bn to be spent on the Public Works Programme for the NDE because it has the capacity and the mandate to undertake such programme which the Ministry of Labour does not have.
He stated that the Ministry of Labour, Productivity and Employment only has a supervisory role to play in the implementation of the Programme designed to recruit 774,000 Nigerians.
“They have a staff strength of over 2,200, and therefore, NDE is primed to undertake such a project because it has the capacity. The Ministry of Labour at the headquarters has no such capacity.”
He said the implementation of the programme by the ministry instead of the NDE will amount to breaking the law because the budget which was passed specified that the NDE will be the implementating agency.
While re-emphasizing the position of the Senate, Lawan said the decision of the Joint Committee to suspend the programme stands and that all actions taken prior to the interaction that will take place with the Joint Committee is null and void as everything will be done afresh.
He called for a harmonious working relationship between the executive and the legislature, adding that the National Assembly will always support the executive arm of government but will not hesitate to be tough if tested.