The National Assembly (NASS) on Wednesday announced the suspension of the Special Public Works programme under the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the engagement of 774, 000 Nigerians under the scheme.
By the arrangement, 1, 000 Nigerians who would earn N20,000 each on a monthly basis for three months are expected to be recruited in each of the 774 local government areas, of the country.
The programme was expected to take off in October this year.
But the nation’s parliament said the programme has been suspended following the disagreement between it and the Minister of State for Employment, Labour and Productivity, Festus Keyamo, on Tuesday.
The spokesperson for the Senate, Ajibola Basiru, who announced the suspension of the programme at a press conference in Abuja, said the National Assembly has summoned the Minister in charge of the Ministry to appear before the federal legislature, to explain the recruitment modalities.
He said, “In view of the foregoing, the implementation of the programme shall be on hold pending proper briefing of the National Assembly by the Minister of Labour and Productivity.”
Basiru said the National Assembly had the powers to suspend the recruitment exercise.
He, however, said Buhari could go to court to challenge the decision of the National Assembly to halt the exercise, if he was not satisfied.
He said, “If the President sees that his powers are being encroached on, he can approach the court of law. What we are saying is this, this project, the way you are looking at it, is as if it is an exclusively presidential project.
“The conception of the programme, its approval and its funding are with the consideration of the National Assembly because we believe it is going to be beneficial for the purpose of addressing the challenges of COVID-19.
“There is no exclusivity in terms of any programme that is to be implemented, except the National Assembly is not part of government.
“Government as defined by the 1999 Constitution has three components: legislative powers (are contained in) Section 4, executive powers (in) Section 5 and the judicial powers (in) Section 6.
“It is the totality that constitutes government; so, when you are saying government is executing a programme, it is not President Muhammadu Buhari that is doing the programme, it is the government of the people.
“The implementation, appropriation and execution all rolled into one. There is no dichotomy as such as encroaching on the powers of the President. Assuming the National Assembly is opposed to the programme, we could have not approved it.
“When journalists also raised issues about the humanitarian social register and the National Assembly intervened, there is now more transparency in it.
“Our people will also ask questions, ‘These 1, 000 people, how were they employed?’ ‘Who set up the selection committee?’ ‘What are the modalities for recruitment?’ ‘What are the minimum requirements for recruitment?”
“It cannot be left to the whims of a person or a branch of government. It has to be the totality of the government.”
The federal lawmakers on Tuesday, walked Keyamo out of a hearing following his refusal to apologise after the legislators accused him of raising his voice against them.
The incident happened at an investigative hearing organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity.
Members of the joint panel had summoned the Minister and NDE Director-General, Nasiru Argungu, to brief them on steps so far taken to recruit 774,000 personnel across the country.
Trouble started when lawmakers queried Keyamo for allegedly undertaking lopsided recruitment without the active involvement of the NDE, the agency that got N52bn approval from the National Assembly to implement the programme.
The argument that ensued afterwards, led to a shouting match between both parties which later degenerated to the forceful exit of Keyamo from the meeting.