What Nigeria’s poor need is the ability to earn long-term incomes that come with the skills acquisition that will enable them to secure long term employment or make money from entrepreneurship. These are some of the reasons why the job programme and its politics are the problem, not Mr. Keyamo.


There is a sense in which the recruitment exercise to fill 774,000 jobs across the 774 local governments in Nigeria doesn’t make sense. For the most part, it is not sincere: This is what led to the recent ugly display at the National Assembly where Mr. Festus Keyamo, the minister of state in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, was accused of hijacking the programme by the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Labour. Keyamo returned the accusation in kind and then offered the law makers 15 per cent of the job slots.

Keyamo did not make clear whether the 15 per cent was his to give in the first place. But in his press conference (reported in the PREMIUM TIMES of May 28), he implied his authority to do so when he profusely thanked President Buhari for giving him “the special and onerous task of supervising the preparation and execution of this special project.” He also stated, for everyone to hear, that in addition to this special presidential assignment, he was also the supervising minister of the National Directorate of Employment, the agency that is responsible for promoting job creation, encouraging entrepreneurship and improving the skills of Nigerians across various industries. So, there should be little doubt that Keyamo is the head minister-in-charge of Mr. President’s N52 billion special public works palliative.

And because this is more of money sharing aimed at poverty alleviation than it is a programme of job creation for the poor in rural areas, as it is being advertised, it degenerated into a banal confrontation between the minister and the Joint Committee of the National Assembly. The interesting question is what the two parties were fighting about. Cynical Nigerians will immediately think it is ‘money’, but this is not about money. Consider the arithmetic.

The total budget for the 774,000 jobs programme is N52 billion. The jobs are temporary – three months to be exact. Each of the recruits is to be paid N20,000 a month, making the total earnings in the life of the programme N60,000 per recruit (never mind that the poor in your village is being paid the same amount as the poor in the more expensive local governments around Lagos, Kano or Enugu: c’est la vie). The total amount that will supposedly go into the pockets of the unskilled labourers for whom the programme is designed is N60,000. Multiply that by 774,000 workers and you get N46,440,000,000, which leaves N5,560,000,000 for all the 774 local governments or less than N7.2 million for capital expenditure on the programme in each local government. So you see, the fight cannot be about money. It’s about votes. Politics.

The first thing to remember is that all the people in the ring are politicians. You will notice that they accused each other about trying to hijack the programme but never about playing politics with the 774,000 jobs, suggesting in effect that the clash is not about politics.


Suppose, for the sake of argument, some members of the National Assembly want an additional term in the House or Senate, or that the honourable minister is persuaded to eye, say the State House in Benin, in the near future: How much will 1,000 jobs that you have provided in each local government in your State or constituency help? “Plenty”, is the right answer.

The first thing to remember is that all the people in the ring are politicians. You will notice that they accused each other about trying to hijack the programme but never about playing politics with the 774,000 jobs, suggesting in effect that the clash is not about politics. Well. Don’t be deceived, dear reader. When a politician tells you it is not about politics, it is actually about politics!

First, there is no job creation. You cannot create jobs with a paltry N7.2 million capital expenditure for a local government area. Second, the Federal Government of Nigeria cannot make a law establishing a minimum wage of N30,000 per month and then turn around to create federal ‘jobs’ that pay only N20,000 a month. That’s illegal.


The thing is that there is nothing wrong with politicians taking care of their constituencies. That’s the name of the game. Constituency service is an important political function of every member of the National Assembly, because it is a duty of our legislators to assist in meeting the needs of the voters who sent them to Abuja. These needs include jobs, contracting opportunities with the federal government, federal scholarships, or training opportunities. And there is nothing wrong with President Buhari providing for the poor in the villages. But what is preposterous is the government’s refusal to call a spade a spade.

First, there is no job creation. You cannot create jobs with a paltry N7.2 million capital expenditure for a local government area. Second, the Federal Government of Nigeria cannot make a law establishing a minimum wage of N30,000 per month and then turn around to create federal ‘jobs’ that pay only N20,000 a month. That’s illegal. Finally, when the abjectly poor and unskilled individuals’ N20,000 per month income ends in three months, what will the government have achieved? What Nigeria’s poor need is the ability to earn long-term incomes that come with the skills acquisition that will enable them to secure long term employment or make money from entrepreneurship. These are some of the reasons why the job programme and its politics are the problem, not Mr. Keyamo.

Ebere Onwudiwe is a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja. Please send your comments to this number on WhatsApp: +234 (0)701 625 8025; messages only, no calls.