Ministry of Aviation budget defence stalled over late submission of documents

The 2021 budget proposal defence of the Federal Ministry of Aviation before the House Committee on Aviation was on Thursday stalled over the late submission of the relevant documents for the exercise.

The documents were submitted to the Committee on Aviation barely an hour to the budget defence session.

Speaking when the exercise was to commence, the Chairman of the Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji expressed concern that the budget documents were made available to lawmakers less than two hours to the meeting contrary to the normal practice.

According to him, “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 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 am 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.”

This development did not go down well with the members of the committee who faulted the ministry for the late submission which could hinder them from doing a thorough job on the appropriation.

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, 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 seriously.

“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.”

Another Member, Ndukwe Nkole moved that: “The minister should go back with the documents, do the necessary tidy ups and come back to us for appropriate legislative engagement.”

His motion unanimously adopted by the committee.

The committee, therefore, adjourned the budget defence to next week Thursday after the minister appealed for a change of the Wednesday date earlier proposed by the lawmakers.

In his response, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika apologised to the committee for his ministry’s failure to forward the documents before the meeting as well his absence at previous meetings with the committee.

Sirika said: “The 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 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 day that the Senate had put for the Aviation Bills that have been on for about five years. I like to tender an 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. The 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 in giving us any date that is not a Wednesday because I stood down a memorandum that I would have delivered yesterday in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to be at 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.”

This is coming barely 72 hours after the same committee directed 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 grey areas in the exercise.

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