With President Muhammadu Buhari’s final approval, Nigeria’s flagship Special Public Works Programme for the employment of 774,000 Nigerians from the nation’s 774 local government areas (LGAs) took off on Tuesday, January 5th.
Under the programme, 1,000 people from each of the 774 LGAs are employed. Each beneficiary will be earning N20,000 monthly.
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The implementation of the gigantic pilot project programme, which would be coordinated by constituted state committees, is to cost N46.44 billion. It is actually N52 billion, if the costs of administration and logistics are added. And already, the funds were appropriated in the 2020 budget.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment, through its parastatal, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), is leading the implementation for the recruitment of the beneficiaries and executing its mandate which is slated to last for three months.
The federal government had on July 7, 2020, announced the commencement of the programme.
But immediately, misunderstandings erupted between the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the National Assembly regarding the implementing body.
While the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo, said that the Ministry would implement the programme, the lawmakers ruled that out.
At a meeting in National Assembly aimed at discussing the progress of the planned employment programme between Mr Keyamo and the Joint Committee on Labour, there was war of words.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives then passed resolutions insisting that the NDE would implement the programme.
The lawmakers also urged the Ministry of Finance not to release any funds for the implementation of the Special Public Works programme if it would breach the due process, Appropriation Act 2020 (As Amended) as well as the NDE Act.
But Mr Keyamo accused the lawmakers of wanting to sabotage the recruitment process despite receiving 15 percent jobs slots.
The federal legislators accused Mr Keyamo of hijacking the programme from the NDE. The Minister hit back, saying the lawmakers were the ones trying to take over the project.
Unsatisfied with the resolution and posture of the National Assembly, Mr Keyamo insisted that the programme cannot be implemented without his approval according to the NDE Act. He said the controversy surrounding the programme is an attempt by the National Assembly to bypass him in the implementation of the project.
Consequently, the National Assembly suspended the programme in the heat of its face-off with the Minister, demanding further explanations.
But President Buhari overruled the National Assembly, directing Keyamo to go ahead with the execution of the programme but through the NDE.
The programme was earlier slated to kick off on October 1 but Keyamo said President Buhari approved the postponement of the scheme to November 1, 2020, owing to floods in some of the project sites in the states.
Finally, it has taken off. This 774,000 Special Works Programme should be executed in the most transparent manner for it to achieve its desired impact. If well executed, it would definitely pull hundreds of thousands of Nigerian youths off the streets and reduce crime.
Therefore, the greedy hands of federal government bureaucrats and politicians and their allies must not be allowed to hijack the project. This must not be jobs for cronies and political associates or thugs. It has to be allocated in such a way that every political ward and community must be represented in the selection to ensure its balance and fairness.
This must not turn out to be another scheme to siphon funds from the federal government coffers to individuals connected with the projects and their political backers.
In addition, every participant must be paid as and when due and the participants must fully execute assignments given out in the course of the programme.
The nation’s anti-corruption agencies – Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) should monitor the implementation to ensure monies budgeted are well spent.