NASS fumes as petroleum ministers shun budget hearing

Beloved JohnDecember 14, 20233 min

The joint committee also suggested that the president, who is the substantive minister of petroleum, is also expected to appear to defend propositions in the 2024 budget  

Tinubu, petroleum minister

The National Assembly joint committee on Petroleum Resources has summoned the minister of state for petroleum resources, Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri and minister of state for gas, Mr. Ekperikpe Ekpo, to appear before it on Monday, December 18, 2023.

The committee members reached the decision on Thursday, December 14, 2023, after expressing strong displeasure with the absence of the ministers for a scheduled hearing to discuss the plans and contributions of the petroleum sector in the 2024 budget.

The joint committee comprises the Senate and House of Representatives committees on petroleum resources (upstream), petroleum resources (downstream and midstream) and gas resources.

Following the absence of the petroleumministers, the committee unanimously adopted a motion for the postponement of the 2024 budget defence and fixed the new date of Monday next week. 

According to the motion sponsor, Senator Abubakar Yari (APC, Zamfara), the committee cannot proceed to work on the budget without interacting with the ministers. “Due to the absence of the three ministers in this meeting, the committee should adjourn this meeting to the 18th of December 2023, at 2pm. We are aware that the committee of appropriation is waiting to get this report by Saturday, but we cannot do otherwise. We have to interface with these key persons before moving forward,“ he said.

Chairman, Senate committee on gas, Sen. Jarigbe Jarigbe (PDP, Cross River) said the absence of the ministers is detrimental to the progress of Nigeria’s democracy. “I am so disappointed. This is the same reason we shifted this meeting. And today again, they are not here. I don’t think this is good for our democracy. We can’t keep shifting. At least one minister should be here to tell us what they want to do for Nigeria. If they have nothing then they should not be ministers,” he said. 

Speaking along the same line, chairman, House committee on petroleum resources (upstream), Rep. Alhassan Doguwa (APC, Kano), accused the ministers of taking the legislature for granted. “We are individually and collectively disappointed. This is one ministry where the success and survival of the economy of the federation lies. This is the ministry that we presume based on tradition and precedence that the president of the federation of Nigeria is the supervising minister,” he said.

Rep. Doguwa continued: “Here we are engaging this ministry in our constitutional duty to look out for the interest of the people but we don’t have any of the ministers here. This is very disappointing to say the least. The president has set a precedent for a mutual working relationship with the assembly. He has also made it clear that coming to the National Assembly to defend the budget is sacrosanct. The failure of the ministers to appear shows that they are taking the presidential instructions for granted. They are also taking the sanctity of this institution where the sovereignty of the people lies in for granted.”

Recall that the President of the Senate. Sen. Godswill Akpabio, had warned government departments against treating the budget defence sessions with levity.

Beloved John

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