SOME QUESTIONS FOR FESTUS KEYAMO

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As a means of creating jobs, the Minister of State for Labour in Nigeria; Festus Keyamosaid the government is embarking on a scheme called the ‘Extended Public Works.

The development has generated a lot of furore even with the National Assembly on the financing, modalities and purpose the new scheme intends to serve.

According to the Minister of State for Labour, the scheme is meant for the rehabilitation and maintenance of public and social infrastructures and irrigation works and as time progresses they may be deployed more into various agricultural schemes.

This calls for questioning on whether there is a database of the intending public infrastructures to be maintained and rehabilitated?

To the best of my knowledge and with the level of our infrastructural development, the infrastructures of federal government that cuts across the nation is majorly roads, bridges, office buildings and probably dams and a few other peculiar infrastructures.

Also, the way agriculture is done in the various parts of Nigeria defers and the emphasis on irrigation is confounding as it is only common place in the north and not in the entire country.

Government must also be reminded that there is a Ministry of Works and Housing saddled with the responsibility of maintaining government infrastructures.

There is also the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) established by an act of parliament; Act No.7 of 2002 with a mission  which says:

“To efficiently and effectively monitor and administer road maintenance with the objective of keeping all federal roads in good and safe conditions”.

And with the vision:

“To become the most efficient road maintenance management organization that will enhance the economic well-being and interest of Nigerians”. 

On its twitter page @FMWHNIG on the 27th of June, 2020, the ministry using the hashtag; #FGAtWORK tweeted its weekly Progress Report (13th June, 2020) about the Ongoing Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Expansion Works on Lagos – Ibadan Expressway Section 1 (Lagos – Shagamu) and in a separate tweet, the ongoing Reconstruction and Expansion Works on the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Road.

Whoever is familiar with construction and maintenance works, will agree that the above projects will definitely involve those who fall into the category which the Keyamo scheme is aimed at. And of course, there is no infrastructural rehabilitation or maintenance work that can be done without the supervision of skilled workers i.e. architects, engineers, surveyors, builders, quantity surveyors etc. 

Why are these agencies not empowered to expand their scope of operation and the numbers of both skilled and unskilled labourrequired for optimal operation either through permanent or temporary staffing?

Besides the Federal ministry of works, we also have the ministry of environment and other agencies of government who can mobilise for whatever rehabilitation or maintenance tasks falls within their purview.

 Almost all states have agencies that keeps its environment clean, sweep its streets and manages waste disposal. In fact, Lagos state went a step further by having a Special Adviser to the Governor on Water Resources and Drainages who has drainage maintenance as part of his brief.

Again, not all the 774 Local Governments have federal infrastructures that may fall under these scheme except maybe they will benefit from the agricultural aspect which varies from animal husbandry to cash crop farming, subsistence farming and lumbering.

I will use my state of origin; Osun State, as a typical example.

In Osun state, the major government infrastructures apart from the federal roads and federal secretariat office complex, the CBN building in Osogbo are federal institutions such as Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) which also houses National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM) and Regional Centre for Training in Aerospace Surveys (RECTAS).

If you are familiar with OAU, it has one of the best maintenance department among government agencies in Nigeria, same as Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC) which also has a branch; The Wesley Guild Hospital in Ilesa. So why the duplication when these agencies engage both skilled and unskilled workers from time to time to maintain and rehabilitate?

The minister of state for labour in his speech also said; “The major thrust of this administration in creating jobs is not about creating opportunities for people to be employed in public service, may be people are fixated on that; that someday somebody will call them and give them an employment letter with terms and conditions and say you should resume in March. The basic thrust of this administration’s policy thrust in creating jobs is to ensure the skilling up of the population-the different strata of the populace, skill them up so that they can be self-employed in such a way that they can also employ others into their small businesses”.

However, I listened further to see how the scheme is going to work and do not see any possibility of the minister’s quote happening with the job descriptions and the way the scheme will run.

The minister mentioned overseeing the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and the directorate has its own programmes.

In a Punch Newspaper report of November 15, 2018, The NDE Director-General, Dr.NasiruArgungu, disclosed in Gusau while opening the orientation programme for new intakes to NDE programmes in Zamfara state that the agency has made provision for over 200, 000 unemployed youths through its various training and empowerment programmes across the county.

He said at the occasion that the agency had empowered over 20,000 women across the Six-Geopolitical Zones of the country, who were trained in cosmetology as at then.

He also disclosed that another 11,100 youths will be trained in quick-win demand driven skin sets nationwide, adding that 25,900 in cosmetology, while 8,450 from 13 states of the country, 650 each will be trained on school-on-wheel”.

He further said: “Thirty thousand unemployed youths will be trained on Advanced National Open Apprenticeship Scheme across the 24 states of the country, 1, 200 per state.

“50 persons from each of the 36 states of the country including Abuja, state will be empowered under our Environmental Beautification Scheme and 50 persons per state under the Sustainable Agricultural Development Training Scheme.

“There are also plans to empower over 11,000 micro businesses with N10,000 each under the Micro Enterprises Enhancement Scheme”.

He said that going forward about 75,450 unemployed youths are to be trained under the various NDE programmes.

If all the above had manifested and were successful, what is the need for this programme as some of the targeted unemployed people would have fallen into at least a category in the above breakdown over the years since 2015, and at least 1,000,000 jobs would have been created through NDE alone.

Also, why the bogus state committees and of what relevance are they to the prescribed jobs?

What exactly will market women, and National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) leaders be doing in the committees?

Will their members leave their lucrative businesses and driving vocation for a 3-month job cycle?

If the purpose is to reach every strata of communities, then trade unions do not need involvement as provisions have supposedly been made to address their needs through the Npower scheme meant for unemployed graduates. The TraderMoni and MarketMoney was meant for market women and traders.

The government has also always promoted various agricultural and small business loans from time to time, so what happened to them?

People are also asking questions about the set remuneration and how the #20,000 salary was arrived at.

The scheme was expected to be paying #20,000 per month for the 3 months’ duration. This falls below the #30,000 minimum wage set by the Federal government and because it is a short term contract job, people are of the opinion that it ought to pay more. Also, in the private sector, unskilled labour job (labourers) get paid between #1,000 and #1,500 daily for the type of job the government intends to create. The question on the lips of the masses is whether proposed wage is commensurate with the living reality today in Nigeria?

Conclusively, my observation is that there are quite a lot of inconsistencies in the proposed scheme despite that there has been a pilot scheme in five local governments each in eight states last year.

There is no communication of the feedback on how the pilot scheme went.

There is no reflection on the positive or negative outcomes and where there would be likely adjustments and so it is difficult to judge both the intention and likely success.

The minister mentioned at some point that the scheme was voluntary; banks will be involved; BVN captured; itinerant and unskilled workers engaged, yet agriculture is also involved.

It is common knowledge that agriculture is not a short term endeavour and the practises are learned. All these seems confusing and it seems a lot of these are meant to be separately done and there may not be value for the 54 billion naira meant to be committed to this seemingly white elephant project like the COVID-19 palliative scheme and School Home feeding programme.

By Wale Oyelekan (dolcewalepsky@yahoo.com)

 

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