Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, came under intense attacks from Nigerians after photographs of him distributing cutlasses and wheelbarrows to youths in Delta State during the launch of the 774,000 jobs in the state last week emerged on social media.
The federal government commenced the distribution of wheelbarrows, head pans and other equipment to unemployed youths as the Expanded Special Public Works Programme of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration commenced last week Tuesday.
Festus Keyamo officially flagged off the Special Public Works Programme, the 774,000 jobs for the South-South Geopolitical zone at the Federal Secretariat Complex, Asaba, capital of Delta State and the pictures of him delivering the equipment which went viral Monday sparked off public outrage.
However, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said the wheelbarrows were distributed because the scheme is short-term.
“The 774,000 jobs is basically for our everyday labourers to carry out community services. It would not be financially prudent if government were to spend billions for expensive equipment for 3-month jobs, then spend millions again training our labourers on how to use these equipment,” he said.
He said the programme was aimed at shielding the most vulnerable from the ravaging effects of COVID-19 pandemic, which he said include pervasive hunger, poverty, environmental degradation and joblessness.
“I am convinced that it will provide the necessary economic palliatives to these 774,000 unemployed youths. Let me emphasise that the youth who diligently participate in this project implementation may then deploy the knowledge and skills acquired to become self-employed while government and the organised private sector may in due course create or provide exit options,” he said.
The programme, designed to employ 1,000 Nigerians from each of the 774 local government areas in the country was initially scheduled for launch on October 1, last year but it ran into hitches following the power play between Keyamo and the Director-General, National Directorate of Employment,Nasir Ladan, who was sacked last month.
Each of the 774,000 workers will earn N20,000 monthly for three months duration of the job, amounting to about N46.44 billion.