The Senate berated the Minister of State for Employment, Labour and Productivity, Mr Festus Keyamo (SAN), again on Wednesday over the recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians for the Federal Government’s Special Public Works programme.
A spokesperson for the Senate, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, described as false, a claim by the minister that each member of the National Assembly was given 30 slots in the ongoing nationwide public works recruitment.
As the Senate condemned Keyamo, the Ogun State Chairman of Special Public Works, Senator Gbenga Obadara, in an interview with The PUNCH, said four doctoral and 200 Master’s degree holders were among applicants in the state.
Recall that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had a few months ago, approved the employment of 774,000 workers as part of efforts to cushion the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the programme, Nigerians, who will be unskilled workers, will earn N20, 000 each on a monthly basis for three months.
At least, 1,000 workers will be recruited from each of the 774 local government areas of the country.
The programme ran into a hitch last month when the National Assembly and Keyamo disagreed over who should handle the recruitment.
The Senators had insisted that the programme should be handled by the National Directorate of Employment.
But following the President’s intervention, the crisis was resolved. Two weeks ago, the Chairman of the Extended Special Public Work Selection Committee in Rivers State, Dr Innocent Barikor, was quoted to have said that the minister had directed that every governor should be given 40 slots in each local government area, while each senator and House of Representatives member would enjoy 30 slots in their various council areas.
We didn’t beg for slots, we weren’t given any – Senate tells Keyamo
But Basiru, in the interview with The PUNCH, said there was no time the minister gave 30 slots to each member of the National Assembly.
He, therefore, warned Keyamo against using the programme to blackmail the lawmakers.
Basiru explained that the Red Chamber never approached Keyamo to negotiate for slots and that no such gesture had been received from him.
Basiru said, “We are not interested in how they are recruiting persons into the public works programme because it is not our project.
“We are not aware of any slot. We don’t want any slot. We did not ask for any slot and we were not given any slot.
“We will reject any blackmail from anybody. Nobody should use the issue of slots to blackmail us. We are not interested in the slots.
“We only hope that by the time we are doing oversight functions, they would have implemented the programme according to the budget.
“We reserve the right to exercise our own oversight functions and we just hope that it would be well implemented in the interest of Nigerians.”
Keyamo could not be reached for comment as he did not respond to calls for reaction to the allegations of blackmail.
He had yet to reply an SMS sent to his phone as of the time of filing this report.
But some state coordinators, who spoke to The PUNCH on Wednesday, said 30 slots were given to each of the National Assembly members.
Recall that the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives had on Tuesday rejected the slots allotted to each member of the House.
The Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, in a statement described the allotment of 30 out of the 1000 slots per local government to each member of the House as grossly unfair.
Reacting to the lawmakers’ complaints, Keyamo said the 30 slots given to each member of the National Assembly were just a privilege and not a right.
He also said it was irrelevant whether the federal lawmakers accepted the slots or not because their constituents would still be the beneficiaries.
He had said, “The question of slots to certain persons was never a question of a right or entitlement, it is just a privilege given to them to recommend persons within their constituencies.”
In Ogun State, the Chairman of Special Public Works, Obadara, in the interview with The PUNCH, said four doctoral and 200 master’s degree holders were among 20,000 applicants in the state.
Answering a question from one of our correspondents, he said, “Four PhD and 200 master’s degree holders have applied.”
Obadara said the committee started distribution of forms four weeks ago and that almost 20,000 persons from 20 local government areas had obtained the forms.
Speaking on the challenges facing the committee, Obadara described 20,000 slots allotted for the state as “a drop of in the ocean.
“Poverty is ravaging. Unemployment is extremely on the high rise. People with master’s degrees and even PhD degrees are applying for 20,000 jobs. That is the problem. It cannot cover everybody. We cannot blame the Federal Government.”
Sokoto takes forms to applicants’ homes
In Sokoto State, it was gathered that the committee had to take recruitment forms to applicants’ homes and persuade them to apply.
A member of the recruitment committee, Akibu Dalhatu, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said, “After the senatorial inauguration, what we have recently embarked on is visitation to local government areas headquarters to sensitise would-be applicants. After the sensitisation, we gave interested applicants the forms to fill, for their possible engagement.”
The Katsina State Chairman of the implementation committee, Alhaji Musa Magaji, said the committee had written stakeholders, including the Christian Association of Nigeria and Jamaatu Nasir Islam, who would submit names of beneficiaries.
He said, “There are various committees constituted to suggest people that would benefit. The committees include the CAN Chairman, the National Union of Road Transport Workers Chairman and the Chairman of the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs. Beneficiaries would be made public after submission of the names and this will be very soon.”
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