Disagreements over who should control the implementation of the planned 774,000 jobs for public works projects nationwide reached a head last week when Festus Keyamo, the Minister of State Labour and Productivity, and members of the National Assembly engaged in an altercation before the full glare of the watching Nigerian public.
Keyamo was appearing before a joint committee of the National Assembly, from both the Senate and House of Representatives, to explain how his ministry planned to carry out the task.
In the course of the briefing by the minister, the members had asked for an executive session where details of the exercise would be disclosed for them in camera to make their inputs.
But the minister declined the request and a shouting match ensued between him and the National Assembly members which led to a walkout by the minister.
The minister alleged that the National Assembly members were seeking to pressure him into surrendering the exercise to them which, by his reckoning, was not within their purview.
He further alleged that the relevant constitutional provisions only empowered the legislators to oversight the ministry and its agencies on how they are carrying out the responsibility.
Keyamo said the ministry had done the necessary constitutional diligence in laying out before the National Assembly how it intends to proceed with the exercise.
But the legislators were of the view that their oversight functions included making inputs into how the task will be carried out in view of their role as the appropriators of the funds and as elected representatives of the various constituencies from where the recruitment will take place.
In the aftermath of the altercation, there were calls from some National Assembly members on President Buhari to suspend the programme until the demands of the legislature are met.
We believe that, in the first place, this disagreement under the circumstances was wholly unnecessary and the calls for suspension of the programme potentially counterproductive.
In this regard, let us not lose sight of the fact that the initiative was conceived as a measure to tackle the unemployment situation in the country as well as provide the much needed infrastructure in our communities.
It is, therefore, incumbent on all the relevant stakeholders and action parties in this exercise to sink whatever differences they may have in order to carry it out.
This is as both the executive and legislative arms of government claim to be representatives of the people.
As the people eagerly await the commencement of this programme that would hopefully ameliorate some of the existential challenges they face, it will be most insensitive to allow the exercise to be held hostage by what clearly is a power tussle fuelled by ego.
On this issue, if the executive and legislature cannot discern the need to rise above sentiments, they should then submit themselves to the extant provisions of the constitution which clearly spells out their powers and limitations.
The National Assembly cannot legislate and execute.
It must resist the temptation to overreach itself by trying to dictate to the executive on how to carry out its statutory functions.
This has been at the root of the many altercations that have occurred between the National Assembly not just on this issue but on several others.
The executive too must learn to observe the necessary protocols in dealing with the National Assembly.
Too often some ministers, chief executives and heads of ministerial development agencies have been found to disregard summons by the National Assembly to explain issues under their purview.
In many cases, some ministers engage the legislators in needless shouting matches when all they need do is explain their positions firmly but politely with decorum.
This is what was required of Minister Keyamo in this particular case.
Whatever the merits of his position, it was marred by his recourse to a verbal joust with the National Assembly members, which hardly covered him in glory.
Going forward, he will be well advised to consider that his current position requires him to grow out of his past role as an activist to one that is befitting of a holder of a very important cabinet position in government.