Renewed War over 774,000 Public Works Jobs as N’Assembly Rejects Slots

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• It’s of no consequence, Says Keyamo

Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The controversy over the 774,000 public works jobs of the federal government resurfaced yesterday as the National Assembly said that it would not be part of the ongoing recruitment in which 30 slots were allotted to each member of the federal legislature.

Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinanya Abaribe, while responding to THISDAY’s enquiries about the job scheme yesterday, said: “As far as the National Assembly is concerned, we are not participating in any form because of our earlier reservations about the lack of transparency in the programme where a minister has hijacked the programme for his own purposes.”

He cited the earlier decision of the upper legislative chamber not to be part of the controversial public works scheme, saying: “The Senate of the National Assembly agreed that it will not participate in the programme as vehemently promoted without due process by Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo.”

But Keyamo in his response yesterday told THISDAY that the rejection of the slots was irrelevant since their constituents would still benefit from the initiative.
Abaribe, however, explained that based on the earlier position of the National Assembly on the issue, the federal legislators will reject the various slots already allocated to them in their respective senatorial districts and constituencies.

“In states, they have been approaching lawmakers and offering them 30 slots for senators,” he said.
The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives also rejected the 30 slots allotted to each member of the House for their respective local government areas within their constituencies in the scheme.

The House Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, in a statement issued yesterday, described the allotment of 30 out of the 1,000 slots per local government area as grossly unfair and unacceptable by the lawmakers.
The caucus demanded more transparency and a review of the criteria being used for the allotment, which it alleged to favour certain interests in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Elumelu said the 30 persons’ allotment to be supervised by a member in each of the local government areas, cannot by any criterion, said to be a true representation of the people they are mandated to represent.
He stated that the 774,000 jobs are meant for the people, adding that the people look up to the lawmakers as major channels through which they are reached for social and economic empowerment, a situation, which makes the 30 person, out of the 1,000 per local government, grossly inadequate.

He said: ”The 30 persons-allotment per local government for lawmakers is grossly unfair, inadequate and unacceptable to Nigerians. As the representatives of the people, we are closer to them and they directly interact with us, irrespective of religion, class and political affiliations.

“All Nigerians living in our constituencies are our constituents, irrespective of political leanings. We have a responsibility to protect their interests at all times. As such lawmakers ought to have been carried along on the allotment.

”Moreover, the questions are: what criterion is being used in the job allotments? Given the 30 persons out of the 1,000 per local government area allotted to federal lawmakers, what happens to the remaining 970? What answers do we give Nigerians? How do we ensure that the programme benefits Nigerians and not enmeshed in allegations of sharp practices as witnessed in the COVID-19 palliative distribution?”

The lawmakers demanded more transparency and consultation in the implementation of the 774,000 public works jobs.
They also charged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately order a review of the implementation process to ensure that the targeted citizens benefited from the programme as intended.

It’s of No Consequence, Says Keyamo

However, Keyamo told THISDAY yesterday that the rejection of the slots was of no consequence.
He said: “It’s the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives but that is irrelevant because their constituents will still get the jobs. It’s 1,000 per local government.”

On what the move by the opposition lawmakers portend for the successful implementation of the job creation programme, Keyamo said: “It wasn’t their right but a mere privilege.”

Also reacting to criticism by PDP over the selection process of 774,000 unskilled jobs, the minister said: “It’s just their normal sense of entitlement that they always had over the years that is worrying them. During their time, all social intervention programmes nobody heard about them.

“This is the first time that this government is making it multi-sectoral, with Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Muslims, market women are there.
“They should tell me just one PDP administration’s programme that involves all segments of the society; not one.”