Mr Festus Keyamo, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment as well as the supervising minister of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), in a recent press interview, said that poor budgetary allocation hinders the directorate from delivering optimally on its mandate of job creation, among other issues. CHRISTIAN APPOLOS brings excerpts.
AS the minister supervising the National Directorate of Employment, what is your honest judgment of NDE’s performance and hindrances in its job creation mandate?
Bearing in mind its mandate and the challenge of limited resources, the NDE has performed beyond expectation. Yes, unemployment has continued to skyrocket and we have a lot of unemployed people on the streets of Nigeria. However, if you look at the last 20 plus years for instance, NDE has continued to receive the same amount on a monthly basis to fund its various skills. NDE has developed enough schemes to squarely fight unemployment and the schemes have been properly worked out to bridge the unemployment gap, but they require funds to be executed.
So, the only thing is that NDE has not had enough funds to run these projects to optimal level but within its limited resources, NDE has continued to manage these programmes, empower Nigerians and make them self-reliant which is actually the way forward for unemployment.
On a serious note, the way forward is not to look for vacancies in both the public and private sectors or in the other sectors, the formal and informal sectors. To look for vacancies and give out employment letters is not the way forward. The way forward is what the NDE is doing, that is to focus attention on skilling up Nigerians and make them self-reliant. Ninety percent of NDE programmes are geared towards skills and empowerment. That is why I said so far, NDE, with the limited resources it gets, has exceeded expectations.
When compared to 10 to 15 years ago, has NDE really improved on job delivery to the unemployed Nigerians?
Absolutely yes! Just look at the statistics. I was studying the report submitted few weeks ago about the efforts we have made since this government came in 2015. There have been tremendous efforts. It has been phenomenal despite the fact that NDE monetary allocation for job creation is not the normal budgetary capital allocation. Unfortunately, the allocation has remained constant for 20 plus years, despite the depreciating value of the naira and increased number of the people in the unemployment market.
So, I would say that NDE has been able to cope and has also done its possible best. I think that going forward, NDE will push for more. The compliments we have got in the past years will also raise the profile of the NDE. Allow me to be modest to say that before I came to the NDE, Festus Keyamo did not know what NDE was. When I now came everybody started asking what is in NDE. So, there have been improvements and progress but a lot more need to be done.
Again, would you say you are satisfied with the performance of the NDE so far?
Considering the limited resources, I am satisfied but I think that more can be done. NDE is still far from fulfilling its potential. One more thing to do which we have started is to create more awareness about the NDE so people can know what we are doing, what we do in different states. We need to tell people what we are doing. Take it outside the NDE circles, the directorate has done so much that Nigerians do not know. Many Nigerians don’t know up to five percent of what the NDE is doing, am serious about that. So I think, if the National Assembly smiles upon us and gives us more allocation, it will go a long way. There is no time that budget on publicity will be a waste. Publicity is an integral part of the government. It is simply to report back to Nigerians. I think going forward we should do more in your in terms of publicity.
What are the other limitations facing the NDE?
There are two major limitations. One is the number of persons who come into the labour market on a daily basis because of the escalating population in Nigeria. The number of persons that enter the labour market every day is far more than the capacity and resources the NDE is provided with to create jobs. So, even though the NDE is the star agency for job creation, you can see that it can only do what it can.
However, there are other government agencies in the business of empowerment/job creation. SMEDAN is doing a lot under the Ministry of Trade and Investment. There are others under the Vice President’s office, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. So, there are a lot of programmes other agencies are doing to catch up with the rising state of unemployment. It is not like these jobs are not being created but the population in the labour market is overflowing far more than the opportunities we are creating.
Let us also let Nigerians know, I keep saying this over and over again, job creation even though we lead the way, is a multilevel government responsibility; the state government, Federal Government and local governments are all responsible. All of the statistics you see, unemployment is 33 percent and all that is not only a Federal Government thing. So, for me, within the context of the Nigerian space, NDE has done well.
What is the latest on NDE’s new headquarters?
I want to use this opportunity to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for giving us all the support to make sure we actualise our dream of having a permanent site for the National Directorate of Employment. First of all, he made it possible for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to make available to us one of the buildings it secured through a court order which had been forfeited to the Federal Government, so luckily we got one of those buildings.
President Muhammadu Buhari also went outside the normal budgetary provisions to approve special funding for us to quickly complete the permanent site. Work is ongoing there right now and we hope it will be completed very soon.
As it relates to staff promotions, what role did you play?
On the issue of staff promotion, what I did as minister was to direct the DG to follow the rules, to ensure that merit prevails and to ensure that nobody jumps the queue and that is why I have refused to intervene on behalf of anyone to influence the process. What we have seen in the last few years is that the issue of promotion has followed the normal procedure and everybody has gotten promotion purely on merit. And I want to thank all the staff of the NDE for their cooperation in this regard.
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