House Urges FG to Halt Take-off of 774,000 Special Works Programme

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By Udora Orizu

The House of Representatives at plenary Tuesday, urged the federal government to halt the take-off of the 774,000 special works programme scheduled to commence January 5, 2021.

The House also asked the Ministry of Finance not to release the funds meant for the programme until some issues that affect the integrity of the programme are sorted out.

It further condemned the sack of the Director General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Mohammed Ladan Argungu, calling for his immediate reinstatement.

The resolutions followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance, titled, ‘Urgent need to stop the circumvention of due process by the federal/ministry of labour and productivity in allocating the 774,000 in the special public works programme,’ sponsored by Hon. Olajide Olatubosun.

Moving the motion, Olatubosun recalled that in October 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a Pilot Special Public Works Programme for the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to be implemented in eight states of the federation.

He noted that the Special Public Works in the rural areas is an employment intensive technique acquired and adapted by the NDE from one of the capacity-building collaborations with the International Labour Organisation (lLO) in the middle of the 1990s.

He also said the National Assembly appropriated the sum of N52 billion in the 2020 fiscal year for the Special Public Works Programme out of which each beneficiary will be paid N20,000 per month over a period of three months.

He expressed concern that if the programme is allowed to go ahead without following due process, a bad precedent would have been set for implementing programmes of this nature in the future as our institutions are gradually undermined.

The lawmaker said: ”The minister of state for labour inaugurated state selection committee for each state of the federation, while the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) as part of its statutory mandate was responsible for the registration of the beneficiaries. Concerned that the state selection committees in most states of the federation bypassed and ignored the list of beneficiaries compiled by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and forwarded a separate list of purported beneficiaries to the office of the minister of state for labour. Greatly concerned that most Nigerians that have submitted their names to the NDE offices in their respective states have been unjustly excluded from this programme which the minister of state for labour announced will start on January 5, 2021.”

In his contribution, Hon. Onofiok Luke said the decision of the government to sack the Director General of the NDE was ill-advised, adding that he stood for the right thing to be done and ensure that the programme succeed.

He said there was the need to suspend the programme because there are silent issues which border on the integrity of the legislature and the need to build institutions.

Luke asserted that the DG stood for what is right and the decision to sack him was ill-advised, adding that since the programme was initially supposed to take place in 2020, the money meant for it was provided for in the 2020 budget, and since it has been shifted to 2021, there was the need to suspend its implementation until there is provision made for it in the 2021 budget.