By Ogechi Okorie
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.
Spokesperson for the Senate, Dr Ajibola Basiru, in an interview, 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.
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, 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 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.”
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.
20,000 apply for Gombe’s 11,000 jobs
But the Gombe State Coordinator of National Directorate of Employment, Hassan Mustapha, said over 20,000 people had applied in the state.
Mustapha added that the state had 11,000 slots.
He said, “We are expecting 11,000, that is 1,000 per the 11 local government area, but over 20,000 have applied.”
Kano gets 44,000 slots
The Kano State selection committee has distributed forms for 44,000 slots given to the state to politicians, in compliance with the Federal Government’s directive.
A reliable source, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “The distribution of the 10 per cent of the 44,000 forms to politicians was concluded early this month.
Plateau job seekers allege secret recruitment
Some job seekers in Plateau State, in separate interviews with The PUNCH in Jos, alleged that the recruitment was being done secretly in the state. (Punch).