What started like a peaceful committee meeting between the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, and the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Employment and Labour on Tuesday ended in chaos as both parties began exchanging words.
The meeting was aimed at discussing the progress of the planned employment of 774,000 Nigerians by the federal government.
The National Assembly had in the 2020 budget appropriated N52 billion for the Special Public Works Programme aimed at employing 774,000 citizens, a thousand from each of the 774 Local Government Areas in the country.
The argument started when members of the committee, headed by Godiya Akwashiki, asked the Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Nasiru Ladan, to explain the composition of a 20-member committee inaugurated on Monday by the ministry for the implementation of the programme.
In his response, Mr Ladan noted that he was aware of only eight members of the committee and asked the lawmakers to seek further clarification from Mr Keyamo.
Unsatisfied with Mr Ladan’s response, members of the panel implied that he was not in control of the programmme.
When Mr Keyamo was asked for further clarification, he snapped, furiously hitting the table. He wondered if he was being accused of hijacking the programme from the NDE and whether the lawmakers were alleging the committee composition was lopsided.
The chaos intensified and lawmakers asked that journalists leave for an executive session with the minister.
But Mr Keyamo firmly rejected the demand, insisting that having been openly accused and disgraced, the cameras should remain in the room.
“How can you expose corruption without the cameras? How can, how can you expose it? I must respond to what he said. You cannot say something and I won’t respond. It is wrong,” he said.
The minister’s outburst angered the lawmakers who asked that he apologise for his behaviour.
Mr Keyamo refused to apologise and insisted that he had done nothing wrong. He said he had been denied the opportunity to respond to their allegations and threatened to walk out of the meeting.
The lawmakers responded in anger, shouting back at the minister to leave if he wanted.
“Go go, get out. Where is the sergeant-at-arms to walk him,” members of the panel yelled.
The lawmakers thereafter reached a resolution asking Mr Keyamo to leave – which he obliged.
Speaking with Journalists, Mr Keyamo accused the lawmakers of trying to take control of the recruitment exercise under his ministry.
He said while he was not aversed to them investigating the programme, they cannot direct him on what to do. He said doing so “will mean sharing in the powers of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
He also admitted that lawmakers were given slots by the ministry.
He said despite granting the lawmakers 15 per cent of the job placement, “they still want to hijack the entire the programme, taking over the power of the president in the process.”