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The House of Representatives on Thursday rejected the 2021 budget proposal of the Ministry of Aviation as the documents were submitted to the Committee on Aviation barely an hour to the budget defence session.
This is coming barely 72 hours after the House Committee asked the ministry to suspend the planned concession of the Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano International Airports, following the refusal of the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to appear before it and make clarifications on the grey areas in the exercise.
At the commencement of the budget defence by the ministry, the Chairman of the Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji, in his opening remarks, expressed concern that the budget documents were made available to the lawmakers less than two hours to the meeting.
He said: ‘Honourable Minister, l don’t know how you expect us to continue this meeting since we just got your 2021 budget proposal this morning despite giving you over a week’s notice so that we can read through and digest it before today. I am not blaming you for this but l must say that I’m disappointed in those who ought to have handled this but failed to do their jobs. For us to do a proper job, we need time to read through.’
Contributing, a member of the committee, Aminu Suleiman, argued that budget engagements go beyond presentation and instant comprehension as lawmakers need to get budget documents on time to study and make useful inputs.
He said: ‘Truly speaking, if we proceed to take this, it presupposes that we know very little about our work. How can an exercise of this nature be conducted with on-the-spot presentation of reports? We have to tell ourselves the truth. We ask the minister and the agencies to return back, it is not intended to denigrate their persons. It is intended to equip us to do this job so that Nigerians will begin to take us serious. We should have the opportunity to digest the report, make contributions and assist the ministry even beyond what is presented in the envelope. If we don’t have that, truly speaking we are not even helping the ministry at all.’
In his response, the Minister of Aviation, Sirika, apologised to the committee for his ministry’s failure to forward the documents before the meeting as well as his absence at previous meetings with the committee.
He said: “First apology, Mr. Chairman is that I and the committee as represented by you fixed a date for concession hearing and that date coincided with the date that Mr. President said we should all go back home for the EndSARS protest. A new date was agreed upon between you and I and that date unfortunately fell on Eid Malud on Thursday, and then yet again another date was set and that date was the date that the Senate had put for the Aviation Bills that have been on for about five years. I like to tender apology to this committee which I served between 2003 and 2007.
The second apology is that the permanent secretary would have been here to explain the reason we got the invitation to supply this document a week ago and is coming just this morning. Third apology is for whatever would have been the reason why the documents came to you this morning, having clear six working days to do so.
‘However I just want to plead that kindly indulge us to give us any date that is not Wednesday because I stood down a memorandum that I would have delivered yesterday in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to be at the National Assembly. Yet again next Wednesday I will miss the opportunity to present that very important memorandum. Kindly indulge us to come back next Thursday.’
The committee therefore adjourned the budget defence to Thursday, next week after the minister appealed for change of the Wednesday date earlier proposed by the lawmakers.
Africa Daily News