Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, Tuesday denied walking out on members of the National Assembly as he insisted that the lawmakers could not stop the Federal Government’s plan to recruit 774,000 indigent Nigerians in the Special Public Works Programme.
Responding to the face-off between him and Joint Committees on Labour of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Minister said in a press statement that he only sought to ensure that that process of recruitment was not hijacked by the lawmakers.
He therefore urged members of various State Committees inaugurated for the scheme to go ahead with their task and ignore the purported suspension of the process issued by the Senate and House Joint Committee on Labour.
According to Keyamo, the Nigerian Constitution overrides the purported suspension order from the Joint Committees; and that any such order is an affront on the executive powers of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He explained that this was why he insisted on answering the questions of the Committee members in the presence of journalists instead of a closed session as requested by the legislators.
Keyamo also said he refused to apologise to the lawmakers for his insistence, and vowed to rather “leave this assignment” than betray his oath of office to uphold the tenets of democracy and good governance.
His statement reads: “Today, in obedience to their invitation, I appeared before the Joint Committees on Labour of both the Senate and the House. The Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members sought to be briefed on the implementation of the Special Public Works Programme so far.
“However, there was a misunderstanding between us when they questioned why I did not privately submit the program to them for vetting before taking certain steps. They suggested that they ought to have an input on how the programme should be implemented. In other words, they sought to control the programme as to who gets what, where and how.
“However, I insisted that I could not surrender the programme to their control since their powers under the constitution does not extend to that. They insisted on a closed door session.
“At this point, I remarked that it was only fair for me to respond to their position before the press, since their own position was also made public. In any case, I remarked that the Nigerian people deserve to know the details of the execution of this all-important programme.
“I was then asked to apologize for insisting on a public interaction and I said there was nothing to apologize about, because their powers to expose corruption provided for in section 88 of the Constitution cannot be exercised in private. As such, there was no need to apologize by insisting on a Constitutional provision. Even their Rules that may provide for private hearings on public matters cannot override the provisions of the Constitution. I was then permitted to leave. I took a bow and left. I NEVER walked out on the respected Committees as they may want to bend the narrative.
“After I left, I understand that the Joint Committees purportedly suspended the work of the Selection Committees nationwide until they decide how the programme should be run and who should be in those Committees. My opinion is that it is tantamount to challenging the powers of Mr. President.
“I regret to say that their powers under section 88 of the 1999 Constitution is only limited to investigations, but NOT TO GIVE ANY DIRECTIVE TO THE EXECUTIVE.
“A Committee or Committees of both Houses do not even have powers to pass binding Resolutions. They can only make recommendations to Plenary. In this case, even Plenary CANNOT give DIRECTIVES to the Executive.
“All my life, I have fought for good governance and constitutional democracy. I will not come into government and be intimidated to abandon those principles. I will rather leave this assignment, if Mr. President so directs than compromise the jobs meant for ordinary Nigerians who have no Godfathers or who are not affiliated to any political party.
“I therefore, respectfully further direct all the Committees set up nationwide made up of CAN, NSCIA, NURTW, Market Women, CSOS, Youth Organisations, respected traditional rulers, etc to proceed with their work unhindered. Only Mr. President can stop their work.”