The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has apologised to the National Assembly joint committee on labour following a clash between lawmakers and Festus Keyamo, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment.
The two sides were involved in a war of words last week over the planned employment of 774,000 Nigerians by the government.
This happened at a meeting aimed at discussing the progress of the planned employment.
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.
Mr Keyamo accused the lawmakers of wanting to sabotage the recruitment process despite receiving 15 per cent jobs slots.
The National Directorate of Employment (NDE), according to the lawmakers, is meant to implement the recruitment under a special works programme.
They had accused Mr Keyamo of hijacking the programme from the NDE. The minister hit back, saying they were the ones trying to take over the project.
The committee later demanded that the programme be suspended until the modalities for the exercise have been explained to the lawmakers.
It also mandated its Committees on Labour and Employment to invite Mr Ngige and other relevant officials of the ministry to brief the joint committee on the modalities for the implementation of the programme.
The minister appeared before members of the committee and the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, at the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Speaking at the meeting, Mr Ngige said he regretted what happened last week.
“We regret what has happened. I apologise on behalf of the ministry and I hope that the apology will be taken. I therefore ask that you forgive and forget and we start on a new page,” he said .
Mr Ngige also noted that Mr Keyamo has prepared a position paper on how the programme would be implemented but “nothing is sacrosanct there, we can still discuss.”
But in his response, Mr Lawan insisted that the committee was right to ask for details on how the programme will be implemented. He said all actions taken by the ministry on the planned employment are “null and void”.
“The NDE was asked to implement this programme because they have the capacity to do so. Only the NDE can undertake this task. The money is supposed to be domiciled with them.
“Your job is to supervise the NDE. We have the mandate to perform oversight. We stand by our committee, they were right to ask those questions. All previous actions taken before now are null and void. You need to go and start afresh.
“You will have our support if the ministry does not go into it,” he said.
Shortly after, both ministers and other delegates went into another meeting with the joint committee.
At this point, the chairman of the committee, Godiya Akwashiki, noted that all activities including the inauguration of the 20-man committee, remains suspended.
The ministers were asked to return and report back with their plan on Monday.
“We are not opposing the programme. Go back, get your work plan and report back on Monday,” Mr Akwashiki said.