President Muhammadu Buhari has directed Minister of State for Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo to proceed with the recruitment of 774,000 youths.
They are to undertake public works across the 774 local government areas from where 1,000 each are to be hired.
Each participant is to be paid N20,000 monthly for the three-month duration of the programme designed to begin in October.
There is N520 billion in the 2020 budget to take care of the programme.
But the selection process has pitted the minister against the National Assembly.
Senate President Ahmed Lawan called for a halt to the process after the stormy session at the joint Senate/House of Representatives Committee meeting with Keyamo on June 30.
Committee members walked Keyamo out of the session after the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Director-General Nasir Ladan, said he did not know about other members of the 20-man selection committee except for the eight statutory members.
He told the members to direct the question at the minister, who said he had the approval of the President.
On Tuesday, the Federal Government, in its official Twitter handle announced that the State Selection Committees inaugurated last month by Keyamo are going ahead with their work.
The tweet reads: “The Special Public Works Programme (SWP) of the Federal Government has kicked off nationwide. The State Selection Committees have been inaugurated and have commenced work.”
Keyamo, in an SMS to The Nation said he had “the instructions” of my boss, Mr. President, to proceed (with the SWP) unhindered.”
He said: I have fresh instructions to proceed with the programme as directed by him (Buhari) and to continue to supervise the programme in accordance with the law.
“The states selection committees are proceeding already with the programme.
“The NDE is part of the programme. The state coordinators of the NDE throughout the country are the secretaries of those committees.
“We will work hard to meet the timeline but if there is any need for a change we will inform Mr. President.”
Keyamo’s media aide Tunde Moshood confirmed that his boss received the Presidential nod and conveyed the directive to the Director-General of the NDE through a memo in which he asked him to proceed with the recruitment.
The National Assembly had asked Ladan to come up with a template and plan on how to implement the programme, following Keyamo’s altercation with members of the Joint Committee over the project.
Moshood said: “There is a directive from the Presidency now that there shouldn’t be any alternative plan that the status quo must remain the same. The only directive is that he (Ladan) should cease from going ahead with alternative plans. There should not be any alternative plan.
“The minister is not fighting him (Ladan). He remains the DG but the status quo must remain. That is, there should not be any alternative plan anywhere. It is our plan; the plan that we have agreed to pursue.”
While inaugurating the states selection committees, Keyamo claimed that he had been inundated with calls by politicians and other influential individuals interested in taking control of the programme.
He also alleged blackmail by such people, insisting that no political leader, except President Buhari to whom he is answerable, could stop him.
Keyamo added: “In the past, it used to be that certain persons entrusted with this kind of programmes, would hand it over to the political leaders. There has been an attempt at blackmailing this programme too to make us yield it to political leaders and we have said no. Not while I’m here.
“I have the pedigree and background; I know where I’m coming from before I came into public office. I have a pedigree and what I stand for and as I said in a previous press conference and I’m saying it again, that except Mr. President who appointed me and gave me the opportunity to drive this programme stops me, no other political leader or person can stop me. I’m only answerable to Mr President.
“I am making it open and I am ready anytime for a public debate on this with them. Ordinary Nigerians must have access to this programme. Those who are thinking that I must come and see them behind the scene to determine who gets what and how they will get it, I am saying no, it is as simple as that.”
The minister consequently warned the state chairmen against yielding to blackmail.