House Rejects Aviation Budget over Late Submission

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Udora Orizu in Abuja

The House of Representatives yesterday rejected the 2021 budget proposals 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 to make clarifications on 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 lawmakers less than two hours to the meeting.

According to him, ‘’Hon 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 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.’’

Contributing also, 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 in order 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 was 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 paper. 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 failure to forward the documents before the meeting as well his absence at previous meetings with the committee.

He said: “Firstly, I apologise. Mr. chairman the committee as represented by and I fixed a date for concession hearing, and that date coincided with the date that the 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 the celebration of Eid Malud, and then yet again, another date was set and that date was the day the Senate set aside for the Aviation Bills, which have been on for about five years. I like to tender my 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. Thirdly, I apology 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 by giving 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 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 next Thursday after the minister appealed for change of the Wednesday date earlier proposed by the lawmakers.