Monday, July 6, 2020
To the Joint Committee of the National Assembly
on Labour, Employment and Productivity,
Senate Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity,
House of Representatives’ Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity,
National Assembly Complex,
Dear Distinguished Senators and Hon. Members,
RE: INVITATION TO A JOINT INTERACTIVE MEETING
Following our inconclusive Interactive Meeting on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, I have been informed again of another Interactive Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 7, 2020. I thank you for another opportunity to clarify all the issues regarding the execution of the Extended Special Public Works Programme which is very dear to the heart of Mr. President and millions of Nigerians to whom we are all accountable.
However, I have decided to make a written submission on issues surrounding the Programme to the Joint Committee ahead of my appearance this time for the following reasons:
(a) To properly lay before the Joint Committee and the Nigerian people in writing the modus operandi for executing this Programme as it is the responsibility of my office to supervise the preparation and execution of this Programme by the clear directives of Mr. President conveyed on the 6th of May, 2020.
(b) To help the Distinguished Senators, Honourable Members and the Nigeria people to narrow down the issues at stake before the said interaction.
(c) To have the opportunity to fully express myself in advance as time and circumstances may not allow me to fully express myself before the Joint Committee. This is because, on Friday, July 3, 2020, in a programme called HARD COPY on Channels Television, the Chairman of the House Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity, Honourable Muhammad Ali Wudil have already publicly accused me of flouting certain unknown rules in arriving at the States’ Selection Committees. Consequently, I may not be able to get a fair hearing from him, especially as he is the one that has been at the forefront of insisting on controlling and dictating the execution of this programme behind the scene. He also made frantic efforts to stop the inauguration of the States’ Selection Committees through series of phone calls to me.
(d) It is also to avoid a situation where any attempt to fully express myself during the session or to call in aid provisions of the law and the Constitution as the basis of some of my actions so far may be misinterpreted as an affront to the Joint Committee. I would rather express those thoughts here and keep a dignified silence if some of those issues become points of contention again. This is because as a trained lawyer and a member of the Inner Bar (a Senior Advocate of Nigeria), and having sworn to uphold the Constitution as a public officer, I would be doing a great disservice to my primary constituency (the legal profession) and to my God-given conscience if I am made to concede issues that I know are constitutionally, legally and morally wrong just to let “things go on”.
(e) Finally, because the main purpose of your powers of investigation under section 88 of the 1999 Constitution is to “expose corruption, inefficiency and waste”, it is important we lay bare our plans for the Programme publicly. “Exposure”, to my mind, will require a public inquiry, not a private one, if we must
keep strictly to the provisions of the Constitution. Therefore, my writing in advance will absolve me of any accusation of impertinence as I most respectfully regret to say that I would be unable to say anything outside of these submissions in any closed door session.
EXTENDED SPECIAL PUBLIC WORKS ACROSS THE 774 LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS OF THE FEDERATION
(1) You will recall that on Monday, 6th of April, 2020, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning in a Press conference, announced the approval of Mr. President for the extension of this programme to all 36 states and the FCT from October- December, 2020 as a means of mitigating the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy.
The Programme is also expected to provide modest stipends for itinerant workers to undertake roads rehabilitation and social housing construction, urban and rural sanitation, health extension and other critical services. Hence, the directive of Mr. President for the NDE to collaborate with other Ministries with rural components in their mandates to work out the modalities for the execution of this Programme.
BASES FOR MY SUPERVISION OF THE PROGRAMME:
(1a).By a memo Ref: CAO.143/S.1/T11/8 dated October 18, 2019, and forwarded to all Government functionaries by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, I was mandated by Mr. President to oversee all the activities of the National Directorate of Employment.
(1b).In addition to the above, by a letter, Ref: SH/COS/14/A/1217 dated 6 May, 2020, Mr. President, once again, approved that I supervise the preparation and execution of the Special Public Works Programme domiciled under the N.D.E
(1c).In addition to the above, Section 6(2) of the National Directorate of Employment Act states that, ‘The Director-General shall, subject to this Act, be the Chief Executive of the Directorate and shall be responsible to the Minister for the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Directorate.”
(1d).It is on the bases of these Presidential and legal mandates that I supervise this programme. “Supervision”, for all intents and purposes, means “direction”, “command”, “administration” and “control”. In other words, the final buck, in all matters relating to this programme, stops on my table.
MEETING WITH OTHER MINISTERS:
(2) In furtherance to the directive of Mr. President, I conveyed a meeting with the following Ministers on Wednesday, 15th of April, 2020:
(i).Minister of Works and Housing
(ii) Minister of Environment;
(iii) Minister of Water Resources
(iv) Minister of Agriculture
(v) Minister of Transportation
(vi) Minister of Health and,
(vii) Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
(3) At the meeting, it was resolved that an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee be set up with the following mandates:
(a) Strategize on the implementation framework
(b) Collate the respective rural programmes for each ministry that can be implemented under the Extended Special Public Works
(c) Review the implementation of the Pilot Programme and make necessary recommendations
(d) Recommend appropriate implementation structure
(e) Recommend appropriate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and
(f)Develop an achievable implementation timeline.
(4) Consequently and in exercise of my powers as Supervising Minister under Section 16 (1) of the NDE Act, I inaugurated a Special Inter-ministerial Committee on the Extended Special Public Works on Wednesday, 29th April, 2020 and appointed the Director-General, NDE to Chair the Committee. Members of the Committee included Directors representing the seven Ministries. (Committee List Attached).
(5) This Committee sat for some weeks and in their collaborative capacity they proposed a list of projects within their Ministries that may require the intervention of the Extended Special Public Works Programme. Over 3,000 projects and 42,000 Manpower were proposed by them. In a Steering capacity, the Committee also made certain recommendations to me which I accepted substantially. It was this Inter-Ministerial Committee that recommended a 20-member States’ Selection Committee which I substantially accepted.
20-MEMBER STATES’ SELECTION COMMITTEE
(6) However, whilst addressing the Press on the 28th of May, 2020, on the progress we have made so far with the Programme. I laid out the composition of the 20-member States’ Selection Committee pursuant to the powers of the Minister under Section 16(1) of the NDE Act as follows:
(i) A Chairman and Vice-Chairman who shall be indigenes of that State or who are ordinarily resident in that State.
(ii) The State Co-ordinator of the N.D.E of that State who will be the Secretary.
(iii) One representative of the Governor of that State.
(iv) The Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria of that State or his representative/nominee.
(v) The State Chairman of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs or his representative/nominee.
(vi) The State Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers or his representative/nominee.
(vii) The market woman leader in that State
(viii) Three persons (one from each Senatorial District) representing the traditional institutions in that State.
(ix) Two persons (one male and one female) from each of the Senatorial District of the State (that is six persons) representing recognized youth organisations in those States.
(x) A representative of a prominent Civil Society Organisation of that State.
(xi) Two persons representing some peculiar interests in those States.
(7) Let me state clearly here that all members of the State Selection Committees are not persons holding any official position in any of the registered political parties. If any of them listed is an official of any political party, then the State Chairman of the Selection Committee of the SPW shall fill that position with another person representing that interest. I stated this in order to make this process as apolitical as possible.
IS THE 20-MEMBER COMMITTEE A WASTE OF NATIONAL RESOURCES?
(8) Interestingly, despite the assertion of Hon. Muhammad Wudil on television that the twenty (20) members of the Committees would be a waste of national resources, if he had properly read the budget, he would have discovered that no provision has been made for the members to be paid any kind of personal allowance whatsoever. The only provision made in the budget is for Five Hundred Thousand Naira per State to cover the logistics of the entire Committee which would be used to move around the States, collate the names, buy stationeries and compile the names in printed form in all the Local Government Areas to forward to us in Abuja. Note that it is N500,000 for the entire Committees, not for individual members. If this is not patriotic service, I do not know what is.
CAN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY CIRCUMSCRIBE OR QUESTION THE DISCRETION OF THE MINISTER TO ESTABLISH THESE COMMITTEES?
(9) My simple answer is NO. Once a person who is given discretionary powers by law exercises that discretion in a particular way, it is impossible to question the exercise of that discretion if it is done within the confines of the law. An example is the power of the President to appoint at least one Minister from each State. As long as the President does not go outside a particular State to pick a Minister for that State, nobody can question his discretion in picking a particular person as Minister from that State. Therefore, even Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution cannot avail the Joint Committee the power to question the discretion of the Minister to constitute Committees for the NDE under Section 16(1) of the NDE Act.
WHY STATES’ SELECTION COMMITTEES INSTEAD OF ONLINE APPLICATIONS
(10) The reasons are: (a) the categories of those to be engaged (which are largely unskilled workers) will not have the capacity and access to make online applications. (b) online applications would not ensure that the 1,000 persons to be selected would come from each Local Government Areas as, for example 300 persons may apply online from Lagos State, claiming to be applying to work in Sokoto State. (c) the selection process would be localized and would absolve us in Abuja the responsibility of selecting persons from different States.
SLOTS TO POLITICAL OFFICE HOLDERS:
(11) However, in the spirit of transparency and because of the need to be honest before Nigerians, we have said before that we are not unmindful of the fact that political office holders are also representatives of the people. We cannot also totally ignore them in the selection process. Their Constituents are also Nigerians. What we have tried to resist is A TOTAL TAKEOVER OF THE PROGRAMME BY POLITICIANS AND POLITICAL ACTORS, hence the multi-sectorial composition of the States’ Selection Committees.
(12) As a result, the States’ Selection Committees have been instructed to allot to political office holders like our distinguished Senators, Honourable members, Ministers and Governors, a number in total not exceeding fifteen percent of the total beneficiaries in that State. This is to ensure that majority of Nigerians who do not belong to any of the political divides actually benefit substantially from this programme.
(13) The actual break down of these numbers between the office holders have been communicated to the States’ Selection Committees. But if I understood Hon. Muhammad Wudil very well during his interview on HARD COPY on Channels Television, he alluded to the fact that he is uncomfortable with the fact that Ministers got a certain number of slots (30) from all the Local Government Areas in a State, whilst he as a Member of the House of Representatives got slots from only the Local Government Areas within his Constituency. But he should remember that there is only one Minister in almost all the States (except a few that have two), whilst a State like Kano where he comes from has 24 members of the House of Representatives. If those 24 members each takes slots from all the Local Government Areas available, there will be nothing left again for everyday people to share.
(13a). Finally on this point, suffice to say that those persons to be recommended for engagement by political office holders that constitute the 15 percent so mentioned, must also be eligible persons to participate in this programme.
APPROVAL OF SELECT BANKS:
(14) I am also pleased to inform you that for the purpose of transparency and accountability in the process, the President approved the use of select banks to register and collate data of those to be engaged. The banks would open accounts for all beneficiaries and in the process obtain BVN for those without accounts. Consequently, all payments would be made from the CBN directly to the accounts of the beneficiaries. The banks will also simultaneously register the participants of the Special Works Programme. Apart from the transparency and accountability this will achieve, one of the benefits of the exercise is that more Nigerians would be captured in the financial system thereby enhancing the financial inclusion drive of Government. Eventually, the data collated by the banks would be passed on to us for use in the programme implementation.
(15) It is important to note that this data to be collated would be used for other multifarious purposes relating to employment and social surveys. Already the National Bureau of Statistics, the National Population Commission and other Federal Government Agencies have requested for an allotment of persons from the 1,000 persons in each Local Government Areas to carry out special social surveys and data collation.
MONITORING AND EVALUATION OF PROJECTS:
(16) For the ease of supervision and monitoring of such a large programme, the President approved the deployment of online technology to effectively supervise, track and monitor the entire process.
(17) As a result, a domain name for an interactive website and online backend activities for the programme, www.specialpublicworks.gov.ng has been established.
(18) A database containing the 774,000 participants and all the public works projects would be established. A final clean copy of the database of
persons to be engaged would be delivered to us by the Banks we engaged to register and open accounts for them.
(19) The website with an analytics dashboard will provide the level of work done on projects on a daily basis. It will also contain a robust feedback mechanism that will allow citizens provide independent assessment on projects.
(20) Project owners and communities where projects are situated will also provide feedback through an online channel to our backend using their mobile devices.
(21) Using technology, we will geotag projects and deploy public works project management software to judiciously allocate human resources to projects.
(22) This various deployment will enable us supervise, track and monitor the programme effectively in accordance with Mr. President’s directive.
DURATION OF PROGRAMME
(23) The programme starts on the 1st of October, 2020. However, we are already running out of time because before October 1, 2020, we still have to select the 774,000 Nigerians, register them, open bank accounts for them and obtain their BVNs. Hence the urgency to proceed with preparations.
HOW MUCH IS THIS PROGRAMME WORTH?
(24). The total sum of N52 billion has been appropriated for this programme. Out of this amount, the sum of N46.44 billion is for actual payment of the stipends of those to be engaged. They will paid through BVN, hence eliminating the possibility of fraud in the payment scheme. The balance of N5.56 billion is for the purchase of tools and light equipment, the transportation, storage and security of these equipment in all the 774 LGAs in the country. That is approximately the sum of N7.183 million per LGA for the three-month period. The procurement of these items can only done by the National Directorate of Employment, complying with strict procurement guidelines in the Public Procurement Act.
WHAT SHOULD NIGERIANS EXPECT FROM THIS PROGRAMME?
(25).At the end of the programme, we would have selected and engaged 774,000 Nigerians in a transparent process, adequately supervised and monitored them and paid N60,000.00 each for services rendered. Nigerians should also expect an improvement in physical and environmental infrastructure nation- wide.
(26) I hereby respectfully make these above submissions, whilst at the same time I am ready, willing and anxious to clarify any grey area in the work plan PUBLICLY when I appear before you. As this is not an investigative hearing, I assume that you would properly inform me if you
want to do any of such and give me the full rights of fair hearing (including giving me the opportunity to confront any witness) as provided for in section 36 of the 1999 Constitution before reaching a decision that may affect my civil rights or obligations. It is only a full investigative hearing that can lead to your “exposing corruption, inefficiency or waste” in the execution of any government programme. An “Interactive Session” cannot lead to such since that is not within the contemplation of Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution.
I thank you all.
FESTUS KEYAMO, SAN, FCIArb (UK)
Honourable Minister of State.