FACE-OFF BETWEEN FESTUS KEYAMO, Minister of State, Labour and Productivity, and Nigerian lawmakers, last week, at the National Assembly, took a better turn, on Tuesday, when Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Productivity, profusely, apologised to the National Assembly lawmakers for Festus Keyamo’s indiscretion and impoliteness, when he engaged the lawmakers in strong altercation.
The National Assembly had described Keyamo’s conducts when he appeared before a Joint Committee on Labour, to make presentation on the implementation of the 774,000 Public Works Programme, under the supervision of Labour and Productivity Ministry, as “display of executive rascality”. And directed that the implementation of the programme be put on hold, until the legislature is properly briefed.
Ngige demonstrated the opposite of Keyamo. He tendered unreserved apology when he led Keyamo to a meeting with the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan. And appealed for forgiveness on behalf Keyamo, and urged the lawmakers to put the incident behind, in the interest of national assignment.
“We deeply regret the incident that happened at the last visit, the altercations that followed it between my Minister of State and members of the joint committees. Therefore, we decided that as a team, we will come in force and give you the necessary information that you will need so that we can fast track this programme.
“My minister of state has put out a position paper, that position paper, nothing is sacrosanct there. We can still discuss and agree after disagreeing. Therefore, Mr Senate President, I apologise on behalf of the ministry for what took place the last time.
“I hope that this apology will be taken by the members of the committee and the entire National Assembly, because I’m aware and I know that a committee is a representative of the whole. I, therefore, request that we forgive and forget. Let us turn a new page and start off on this programme”, a remorseful Ngige said.
A DEFIANT KEYAMO, after the meeting with Senate President, Lawan, told journalists, that only President Buhari, can ask him to hands off the process he had started on 774,000 public works recruitment programme. He said: “First of all, may I say that this distinguished National Assembly, I believe that they are the lawmakers and they desire to comply strictly with the provisions of the law.
“Now, it is important that all of you read the National Directorate of Employment Act. You can see that the whole struggle today has been how to bypass me in the execution of this programme and I’m sure that you all saw that. Now, with the provisions of the law, how they are going to do that, I don’t know, I have to go back to my principal which is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to get directives.
“By Section 3 of the NDE Act, I am the Chairman of the Board. The Minister is the chairman of the Board of the NDE. When you say go back and bring a plan, you are still coming back to me. Secondly, if you look at section 15 of the NDE Act, it said the Minister may give directives of a general nature to the NDE. In other words, you cannot have a work plan without coming back to the Minister.
“The third point is that by virtue of my appointment as a Minister, the President gave a directive in October last year saying that I should go and supervise generally the activity of the NDE. I don’t see how I will supervise an agency and they will go ahead without approval, the bulk must stop at a table.
“The fourth one, beyond the general mandate the President gave, he also specifically instructed me through a memo in May this year, to go and supervise the execution of this project. How can I supervise a project without my final approval? That approval lies on my table.
“So when you say go back and bring a plan, are you asking the that the DG of NDE should go and break the law? Are you saying the DG should disobey the President? Are you saying the DG should disobey his immediate boss which is his Minister?
“I will go back to the President for directives. The directives as to the execution of a project is not binding on me. The directives of the National Assembly is not binding on me. This is an issue that will go to the Attorney-General at the end of the day for interpretation,” Keyamu asserted.
Festus Keyamo is a minister appointed for public service. Not to the president. President Buhari, Keyamo’s employer, needs give the Minister of State, Labour and Productivity, ministerial orientation on the rule of engagements, conducts, decency, decorum and political expediency in holding political office.
Several factors and considerations underscore the functions of a public office holders. No room for ministerial activism or “display of executive rascality”, in holding public office, as Ahmed Lawal, Senate President described Keyamo’s conduct at the National Assembly.