The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has apologised to the leadership of the National Assembly for the conduct of Festus Keyamo, the Minister of State for Labour.
Keyamo was involved in a war of words with a joint committee of the National Assembly on Labour when he appeared before the lawmakers to discuss the Special Public Works Programme which seeks to recruit a total of 774,000 Nigerians across the country.
Keyami bluntly refused the lawmakers' directive for journalists to leave the room when the committee started to question his influence on the project, including the alleged exclusion of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) expected to implement recruitment for the programme for which N52 billion has been budgeted.
The minister was subsequently asked to leave when both parties could not reach a conclusion after a shouty exchange.
When he met the leadership of the National Assembly on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, Ngige said the incident was a regrettable one.
"I apologise on behalf of the ministry for what took place the last time. I request that you forgive and forget, and we start on a new page," he said.
Ngige also said Keyamo's position paper on the programme was not 'sacrosanct' and could still be discussed with the legislative arm.
The minister said the programme would be a breath of fresh air for its beneficiaries who have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan agreed with Ngige that the programme is important, but that the process must be transparent.
He said the Ministry of Labour does not have the capacity to comprehensively implement the programme quite like the 'well-built' NDE.
"In fact, if the request had come to the National Assembly that we should pass this money for the ministry headquarters to embark on the programme, we wouldn't have passed it," Lawan said.
He insisted that the ministry will not be allowed to implement the programme, and urged Ngige to ensure that a cordial relationship is maintained with the legislature.
"This National Assembly can support you very well, but it can stand tough if its will is tested. We want our committees to work with your ministry to implement this programme," he told Ngige.
He declared all previous actions taken by Keyamo as 'null and void' and told Ngige to work with lawmakers to start afresh.
Last week, Keyamo alleged that politicians were trying to hijack the recruitment process by trying to roll over him.
The status of the States' Selection Committees he inaugurated last week to commence recruitment for the programme is now uncertain after Ngige's meeting with Lawan.
The committees are responsible for identifying the public works to be executed in each LGA, and will also identify and recruit those to be engaged under the programme.
Keyamo told them last week to complete the selection processes within three weeks.
Beneficiaries of the programme, expected to run for three months between October and December, will be paid N20,000 per month.
They will be expected to perform tasks in roads rehabilitation, social housing construction, urban and rural sanitation, and other critical services.