The 774, 000 Special Public Works (SPW) jobs will now commence on January 5, the Federal Government said on Sunday.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, told The Nation on Sunday in Abuja.
The programme, designed for artisans to do public works for three months for N20,000 per month, suffered setbacks in commencement date because of internal wrangling between the minister and a former Director – General of the National Directorate of Employment, Nasir Ladan, who was sacked last week by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister said the programme ran into some “hiccups” hence the delay in the commencement date earlier announced.
The “hiccups” may be connected with the struggle for the control of the programme by the sacked Director – General who was at loggerhead with Keyamo over the implementation of the programme.
The sacked Ladan, it was gathered, worked with the National Assembly to undermine Keyamo who is the supervising minister following the fallout between the minister and the lawmakers.
Both the government officials couldn’t bring themselves to work together on the programme as Ladan continuously flouted the directives of the minister while cozying up to the National Assembly members.
Twice, the Federal Government announced a new date for the kick-off of the programme designed to employ 774, 000 Nigerians in the 774 local government areas.
Despite the release of N26 billion as stated by Ladan and procurement of equipment, the programme has not commenced till date.
On Sunday, Keyamo told our reporter that the work would officially commence in January, 2021 and that an official announcement will be made on Wednesday after the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
The minister added that he expects the programme to go on smoothly with the removal of Ladan.
He said: “We have taken a firm decision to begin on January 5, 2021 but I am going to make an official announcement after FEC on Wednesday. We had a few hiccups in December but we have taken a decision to begin January 5 which is a Tuesday.
“The programme will run from January to March 2021 which is pure dry season. So, we are ready. All the obstacles have been removed.”
The minister also said only banks approved by the president would be used for the payment of the participants’ stipends.
Keyamo said the six banks – Zenith, Access, Fidelity, FCMB, UBA, and Heritage bank enlisted for the programme have successfully opened a special accounts and captured the biometrics of successful applicants for the job.
The applicants, the minister said will be paid through their bank accounts using their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) to avoid fraud and double payment.
Keyamo said: “As we go into the field, we need to make a few clarification. The reason this programme was delayed in the last few weeks was because as minister, who is in charge of the implementation and supervision of this programme, we got reports from all over the country that certain unscrupulous persons were generating alternative lists, different from the ones that I approved as minister and which I directed the implementation in strict compliance with Mr president’s directives.
“The clear directive of Mr. President to me was that to ensure a fraud-free process, we should ensure that there is a clear audit trail of all payments made to all beneficiaries and as such we needed to engage selected banks who can share data with us and we needed to open special accountants for all participants in such a way that there will be an audit trail of all payments made through these selected banks.”
The minister also said there is no implementation committees anywhere contrary to reports.
He urged Nigerians to disregard such committees, saying the only committees for the programme, are the state selection committees which he inaugurated to pick applicants.
Keyamo said: “However, what happened was that people began to generate separate lists across the country, using NDE officials at different levels and in clear disobedience of my directives, and in clear case of insubordination. So we had a problem of potential clash if we had started this programme few weeks ago. There would have been chaos because different people would have come up from different places claiming to be on the lists of the Special Public Works.
“We needed to streamline this process; we needed to have a clear authority in respect of the selection process and as such, we have done so now. I want to make it clear that as we go to the field, it is only those persons registered by the banks we selected and whose names were submitted by the state selection committees that will participate in the programme and those are the only people to be paid.
“Those who feel they have certain complaints should reach out to us in the ministry and my office. We will take care of them but we don’t want different authorities issuing different directives in respect of this programme.
“Now that we are set to start, I want to state clearly that it is only the state selection committees that I authorised as minister. Under the NDE Act; it is only the minister that can establish committees. No other person can establish committees. Therefore, the existence of certain implementation committees are null and void and they will have nothing to do with this programme because I have not approved such implementation committees. No name was brought to me and I didn’t inaugurate such committees.
“The only committees I inaugurated was the state selection committees and those are the committees that are still in existence today and who will supervise this programme. This is the only way forward. That is why we have streamlined this programme so that we can move forward.
“This directive I have issued in line with Mr President’s directives, any official found flouting it will face strict disciplinary measures. It is a note of warning we are sounding to everybody who is charged with duty of implementing this programme. Both at the state and local government levels.”