Senate Flays Envelope Budgeting, Abandonment of Ajaokuta Steel Project

•Minister seeks legislative intervention

Deji Elumoye and Juliet Akoje in Abuja

The Senate has flayed the executive arm of government for forwarding to the National Assembly annual envelope budgeting for approval.

The Red Chamber through its Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy, also frowned at the abandonment of Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Project through non provision of required budgetary votes on yearly basis.

The Senate’s position was sequel to a proposed N23.4 billion 2022 budget estimates enveloped for the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development as presented by the Minister of State, Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah.

Ogah who represented the Minister, Olamilekan Adegbite in his presentation, said out of the N23.4 billion budget profile for the Ministry in 2022, N10 billion is for personnel cost, N1.47 billion for overhead cost and N11 billion for capital projects.

Reacting to the Minister of State’s presentation, members of the committee took turn to condemn the meagre budgetary allocation for the sector which, according to them, should rank second after the oil and gas sector.

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Tanko Al- Makura, who fired the first salvo said: “the yearly ritual called budget, is garbage in, garbage out, which will not take the country to anywhere as far as required diversification is concerned.

“The type of budgeting process being carried out in this country over the years, is stereotypic one. It is wrong for budget to be conceptualised in the ministry, enveloped and forward to the National Assembly for approval.”

On his part, Senator Smart Adeyemi, said the economic team of President Muhammadu Buhari was clearly out of tune with realities on ground as regards what Nigerians needed.

He wondered: “How on earth would a minister propose N82 billion for procurement of mosquitoes net and a sector as important as the solid minerals, given N10 or N11 billion?”

According to him, Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Complex that could give jobs to about 50, 000 Nigerians had been lying fallow in a country with army of unemployed youths who could stage revolution at any time.

He said: “Nigeria is bleeding from this envelope form of budgeting riddled with repetition of line items and allocations on yearly basis.

“Government may be building infrastructure but building infrastructure is not as good as creating wealth through diversification of the economy.

“The best way of doing this is to remove whatever bottleneck hindering continuation of work on Ajaokuta Steel complex and get it completed.”

Responding, the Minister said envelope budgeting was not the creation of the ministry as it affects other government agencies.

He added: “My appeal to you distinguished Senators on the current model of budgeting is for the National Assembly to seek the attention of the President.

“Operating with envelope as far as yearly budget is concerned doesn’t make one think out of the box. It makes one looks stupid. We have the passion to drive the development of the country and transform into reality, the vision of Mr. President like other patriotic Nigerians in one public Office or the other.”

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