Senate descended heavily on the executive arm of government on the annual ritual of forwarding envelope budgeting to the National Assembly for approval and the continued neglect of the Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Complex. in Kogi State.
Specifically, members of the Commitee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy frowned at the abandonment of Ajaokuta Iron and Steel project through non provision of required budgetary votes on yearly basis.
Anger of the lawmakers on the envelope budgeting and the neglect of Ajaokuta Steel project, was triggered by the proposed N23.4billion 2022 budget estimates enveloped for the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development as presented by the Minister of State, Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah.
Ogah who represented the minister, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite in his presentation said out of the N23.4billion budget profile for the ministry in 2022, N10billion is for personnel cost, N1.47billion for overhead cost and N11billion for capital projects.
Irked by the presentation, members of the committee one after the other, decried the meagre budgetary allocation for the sector which, according to them, should rank second after the oil and gas sector.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura (APC Nasarawa South), 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,” he added.
Raising the tempo of the anger in his own contribution, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC Kogi West), said the economic team of President Muhammadu Buhari is clearly out of tune with the realities on ground as regards the needs of Nigerians.
“How on earth would a minister proposed N82billion for procurement of mosquitoes net and a sector as important as the solid minerals be given N10 or N11billion? , he fumed.
“Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Complex that can give jobs to about 50, 000 Nigerians he lamented is lying fallow in a country with army of unemployed youths who can stage revolution at any time.
“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,” he said.
But the minister in his response said the envelope budgeting was not the creation of the ministry as it affects other government agencies.
“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,” he stressed.
He added that even with the envelope budgeting and lean resources, the ministry has changed the narrative of low internally generated revenue to very appreciable figures now.
“In recent past, it used to be N2billion on yearly basis but has increased to N6.2billion now with a target of hitting N10billion by the end of the year,” he said.
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