The Federal Government, on Tuesday, inaugurated the Special Public Works Programme meant for the employment of 774,000 itinerant workers nationwide for three months.
The government said the initiative, through which the beneficiaries will be paid N20,000 each, was conceived to shield vulnerable Nigerians from poverty, hunger and joblessness.
Speaking at the ceremony, which held at the old Parade Ground, Abuja, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, explained that the initiative was meant to protect the most vulnerable Nigerians from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He noted that the applicants would execute carefully selected projects, including repair and rehabilitation of public infrastructure in their areas, adding that the workers were not engaged to only clean drainages.
According to him, each of the participating 774 local government areas has identified its preferred projects and will be responsible for ensuring that they are executed as planned.
The minister said the pilot programme was implemented in eight states to gauge its impact on addressing the rising population of unemployed Nigerians, adding that the strategy was adopted to fast-track the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020.
Keyamo stated: “Under the National Economic Sustainability Plan, the Ministry of Labour and Employment decided to adopt a proactive approach by engaging the nation’s youths in some important sectors of the economy. This strategy is intended to facilitate the creation of productive and inclusive societies in our nation.
“It is also aimed at shielding the most vulnerable from the ravaging effects of COVID-19 pandemic, which include but are not limited to pervasive hunger, poverty, environmental degradation and joblessness.”
In his address, the acting Director-General, National Directorate of Employment, Mallam Abubakar Fikpo, said the local communities would receive a facelift through the programme, adding that the participants would be involved in drainage clearing and maintenance, vegetation control, irrigation and orchard maintenance.
Meanwhile, the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has advised beneficiaries of the 774,000 of the SPW to see the opportunity as their own way of little beginning that will lead to positive testimonies in the near future.
Addressing the beneficiaries, Okowa, who was represented by the state Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, during the inauguration of the scheme in Asaba on Tuesday, expressed delight with it, saying the programme was in line with his administration’s policy on job creation.
In Oyo State, Governor Seyi Makinde said the programme was a step in the right direction to address the unemployment challenge and to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The governor maintained that the programme would complement the efforts of the state government to tackle unemployment in the state.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, indicated that Makinde, who was represented by his deputy, Rauf Olaniyan, inaugurated the programme on the premises of the Akinyele Local Government Secretariat, Moniya, Ibadan.
However, the Senate may debate the programme when it resumes plenary on January 26.
The spokesperson for the upper chamber, Senator Ajibola Basiru, dropped the hint in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Tuesday.
The National Assembly had last year approved N52bn for the NDE to implement the programme that was supposed to have taken off since last October but for some major challenges.
The red chamber had on December 10, 2020 asked the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to rescind his decision to sack the Director-General of the NDE, Dr Ladan Argungu, to enable him to supervise the programme’s implementation.
Speaking on the development, Basiru said the Senate had yet to take any position on the issue but might likely debate it on January 26.
“The Senate will discuss the issue when we resume if there is any need to do so. The Senate hasn’t taken any position on it yet,” he stated.
He, however, feigned ignorance on the motion taken by the Senate on the issue.
Basiru said: “I don’t know about the motion. I can’t remember all motions passed by the Senate. I don’t have records of all the motions in my brain.
“If you want me to respond to the question, you will wait till I resume on January 26, then I will check my records.
“I cannot remember any motion passed by the Senate on the sacking of the NDE DG. That does not mean that it doesn’t exist or it exists.”
The Senate spokesperson nevertheless said the PWP would still be implemented by the NDE despite the sacking of Argungu.