How 2020 clash with Senators over N52bn NDE scheme haunted Keyamo

The Senate, today, Monday, was split into two, and degenerated into an uproar that culminated in a closed-door session, all due to the screening of former Minister of State, Labour, and the ministerial nominee from Delta State, Festus Keyamo (SAN).

Keyamo’s introduction went well, with him expanding on how he fought for the right of the Senate and  that he went to court and won a case to have the Upper Chamber confirm the appointment of Service Chiefs.

However, trouble started when the Deputy  Minority Leader, Senator Darlington Nwokocha (LP, Abia  Central) rose at 1.37p.m., to raise a point of Order.

Nwokocha’s point of order was with regard to a matter in 2020 about the public works programme for the employment of 1,000 Nigerians in every local government area in the country.

Citing Section 88(1b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Nwokacha reminded Keyamo of accusing the National Assembly of corruption and wanting to hijack the process of disbursement of N52 billion.

Section 88 says each House of the National Assembly has the power to investigate (a) any matter in respect of which it has the power to make laws; and (b) the conduct of any parastatal or official responsible for administering any Act of the National Assembly or in charge of disbursing funds.

As Nwokocha expounded on the issue, he became more furious, and ended with a motion that the screening of Keyamo should be stepped down.

Senator Enyinnaya (APGA, Abia South) seconded the motion, saying the nominee rejected the summons of the Senate and House of  Representatives over the public works programme.

Rowdy Senate

Then the rowdiness began to gather momentum. By the time the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, put the question to voice vote, the Senate was in an uproar.

Senator Akpabio refused to agree for a division. A division means each Senator voting individually.

It was at this point that the Majority Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central) called for a closed-door session and was seconded by the Minority  Leader, Senator Simon Nwadkwon (PDP, Plateau).

However, few minutes after the closed session, the President of the Senate, Akpabio, rushed to the State House to meet with President Bola Tinubu.

Although the agenda of the meeting was not made public, it was gathered that it was not unconnected with the screening of Keyamo and the stiff opposition by senators.

The lawmakers want his screening stepped down pending when he explained why he ignored invitation to him in the ninth Senate to explain how the government social works was handled.

… the 2020 clash

Back on Tuesday, June 20, 2020, Keyamo engaged the senators and House of Representatives members in a shouting match.

It was supposed to be an interactive session between Keyamo, who was then Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, and the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Labour.

The Committee asked the Director-General of NDE, Nasiru Ladan, to speak on the composition of a 20-man committee inaugurated a day before by the ministry for the implementation of the Special Public Works Programme 2020.

The lawmakers were not satisfied with Ladan’s defence of the N52 billion budgeted for the recruitment of 774,000 Nigerians under the NDE, saying he was not in control.

But the NDE boss said he was aware of only an 8-member committee and not 20, and then referred the lawmakers to seek further clarification from the minister.

Keyamo responded that his ministry was asked to supervise the recruitments by then President, Muhammadu Buhari, and the federal lawmakers disagreed with Keyamo. Then a shouting spree ensued.

The lawmakers accused Keyamo of hijacking the programme from the NDE, alleging acute lopsidedness in the entire programme.

They then asked the press to excuse them, as they wanted an executive session with the minister.

Keyamo refused, saying if the committee accused him in the open, there was no need for a private session for him to respond.

He was asked to apologise. He refused. And in the ensuing back-and-forth, the lawmakers asked him to leave.

Keyamo further aggravated the situation when he told journalists the lawmakers wanted to hijack the employment process.

He said they could not direct him on what to do, adding that he had granted the lawmakers 15% of the job placements.

Keyamo never went back to explain or smoothen things over with the lawmakers. Today, Monday, August 8, 2023, the lawmakers (or some of them) have not forgotten. Or forgiven Keyamo.

Hopefully, President Bola Tinubu’s intervention can still save Keyamo.


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