Nigeria’s Minister of Labour, Productivity and Employment, Chris Ngige, has apologised to the leadership of the National Assembly over last week’s face-off between the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, and the joint Senate and House Committees on Labour, Productivity and Employment.
Ngige tendered an apology on Tuesday in an address delivered when he led a delegation from the ministry on a visit to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, at the National Assembly, Abuja.
“We deeply regret the incident that happened, the altercation that followed it, between my Minister of State and members of the Joint Committee.
“Therefore, we decided that as a team, we would come with full force and give the necessary information that we need so that we can fast track this programme which was designed from the office of the President before the COVID-19.
“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.
“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, because 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.”
The Senate President in his response explained that the decision by the National Assembly to approve the sum of N52bn as requested by the Executive for the Special Public Works Programme was mainly out of confidence in the National Directorate of Employment to implement accordingly.
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.
He said, “When Mr President presented the request for the appropriation of N52bn for Public Works, the National Assembly Committees scrutinized and recommended to the plenary of the two chambers the same request without any change, while recommending the passage.
“The National Assembly passed that request feeling convinced that this is one Programme that is needed in this country especially at this time.
“But we were also conscious of one thing, who should implement the programme? That was one of our considerations. Even the Executive requested that the National Directorate for Employment should implement the Programme, and we agreed with that for the following reasons.
“NDE has been in existence since 1996, and is established by law, and that was our reason for keeping the money in NDE to implement as an agency.
“NDE has six zonal offices and thirty seven state offices, including the FCT, and close to 700 local government representative officers across the country.
“There’s no way we can pass N52bn and then not take interest in how this money will be paid. In fact, only NDE can undertake the procurement process, you can’t in the ministry. How can you even contemplate taking the implementation?
“Our committees were right to request for the explanation of the modalities. We stand by our committees, and in total support of the suspension of the Programme. In fact, any action taken before now is null and void. You are going to start all over.
“I want to assure you Honourable Minister that we are going to support you all the way to make sure this Programme is successful, but you don’t have our support of the ministry ventures into it.”
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