774,000 Jobs: Reps ordered Ministry of Finance not to release funds

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House of Representatives has urged the Ministry of Finance not to release any funds for the implementation of the special public works programme if it was in breach of due process, the Appropriation Act 2020 as well as the National Directorate of Employment, NDE Act.

The House took the resolution after considering and adopting a motion titled “The Need to Uphold the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Act In The Implementation of the Special Works Programme” sponsored by the deputy minority leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu and, the Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji both of when from Enugu State at Tuesday plenary.

It will be recalled that the programme was conceived by the federal government to engage 774,000 Nigerian youths, 1000 from each of the 774 local government areas and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT in the gainful venture.

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Adopting the motion, the House advocated that for transparency and scrutiny, the programme should be removed from the supervision of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Kayemo, saying that his portfolio was not known by law.

The House, therefore, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige whose office the lawmakers said was recognised by the Constitution and NDE Act, to live up to his lawful responsibility of supervising the NDE, ensuring non-interference and meddlesomeness by any persons in the running of the agency.

Moving the motion on their behalf earlier, Okechukwu submitted that “Section 2 of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Act unambiguously vests in the agency the responsibility to, among other key aims and objectives, design and implement programmes to combat mass unemployment.”

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He added that “the Appropriation Act 2020, a valid law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is clear that the NDE is the implementing agency for the Special Public Works (SPW) programme and captured it as follows: “Public Works Programme (1000 persons per LGA for 36 States and Area Councils of FCT-774,000 persons” for the sum of N52,000,000,000.”

The lawmaker further said that since the Executive proposed the programme, it could have clearly named the Ministry of Labour and not the NDE, as the implementing authority in the 2020 budget if it so wished, adding “the NDE, being a creation of the law, has been in operation for about 23 years and has the professionals and requisite technical staff to implement government policies, including the Special Public Works programme, an initiative on which it has conducted a pilot study in 8 states of the Federation, hence the domiciliation of the programme with the agency.”

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He said that the House was mindful of the high economic consequences for the country to resort to ad-hoc arrangements, fearing that such a measure may not be accountable in the future.

The House rather preferred the use of the NDE as an interventionist agency created by law.

Okechukwu recalled the crisis in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, arguing that the recruitment of an Interim Management Committee, IMC, by the Executive instead of inaugurating the NDDC Board as submitted by Mr President and approved by the Senate may have caused it.

He said: “Notes that the supervisory powers conferred on the Minister of Labour by Section 15 of the NDE Act do not condone any abnormalities or allow the Minister to do so without regards to the law.

“Also aware that by our laws as presently constituted, the NDE is an implementing agency with the Minister of Labour, not Minister of State, an aberration and indeed an entity unknown to the law, is the supervising Minister.

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“Mindful that the term “Minister of State” is not a creation of Section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. This may, therefore, be the reason for the refusal of the Minister of State to be guided on the method adopted by Parliament for its proceedings and his assertion that “only Mr President can stop our work”, not our laws nor our institutions.

“Worried that this attitude may jeopardize the capacity of the National Assembly to oversight and ensure prudence as enshrined in sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution.

“The House is determined to prevent any mischief, wastage of scarce public resources, lack of accountability and defeat of the aims and objectives of the Special Public Works programme.”

The motion got the overwhelming support of the members when eventually put to voice vote by the presiding officer of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila.

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