The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige has said that the ministry deeply regrets the incidence regarding the Public Works Programme of the ministry over which an altercation ensued between the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo and the National Assembly (NASS) Joint Committee on Labour.
While speaking as the President of the Senate, His Excellency, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, received in audience of the Minister who came on a courtesy visit with a delegation of the ministry and officials of the National Directorate of Employment on Tuesday.
According to him, “therefore, Mr. President, I apologize on behalf of my Ministry for what took place the last time, and I hope this apology will be taken by members of the Committee and the entire National Assembly. I’m aware and I know that a Committee is a representative of the whole.
“The committee room is an extension of our hallowed chambers. I, therefore, request that we forgive and forget. Let us turn a new page and start off on this Programme which the National Assembly has indicated that they’ve suspended. We can’t suspend forever programmes that affect our people”, he said.
He added that the ministry deeply regrets the incidence that happened and the altercation that followed which was why he decided to come with his team at the ministry to give all the necessary information to fast track the programme.
“We must work hand-in-hand without acrimony or even drawing a very rigid line of who has this power and who doesn’t. That is the only way the programmes of government can be made sustainable and executed for the benefit of our people,” Senator Ngige said.
While tendering the apology of the ministry, he said nothing in the position paper put out by his Minister of State is sacrosanct as everything will still be discussed and both parties agreeing to disagree.
Responding, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan thanked the minister for the visit and frowned at the attempt by the ministry to implement a programme that was approved for the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
Lawan said the National Assembly approved the N52bn to be spent on the Public Works Programme for the NDE because it has the capacity and the mandate to undertake such programme which the Ministry of Labour does not have.
He stated that the Ministry of Labour, Productivity and Employment only has a supervisory role to play in the implementation of the Programme designed to recruit 774,000 Nigerians. “They have a staff strength of over 2,200, and therefore, NDE is primed to undertake such a project because it has the capacity. The Ministry of Labour at the headquarters has no such capacity.”
He said the implementation of the programme by the ministry instead of the NDE will amount to breaking the law because the budget which was passed specified that the NDE will be the implementating agency.
While re-emphasizing the position of the Senate, Lawan said the decision of the Joint Committee to suspend the programme stands and that all actions taken prior to the interaction that will take place with the Joint Committee is null and void as everything will done done afresh.
He called for a harmonious working relationship between the executive and the legislature, adding that the National Assembly will always support the executive arm of government but will not hesitate to be tough if tested.