NASS threatens petroleum ministers for shunning budget defence

THE National Assembly has threatened to sanction the Ministers of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil and Gas) Heineken Lokpobiri and Ekperikpe Ekpo, respectively, for failing to appear before it for their 2024 budget defence.

The joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Petroleum Resources issued the threat when it convened for the budget defence, but the ministers did not turn up.

The committee had scheduled a session with the ministers on Wednesday, December 14, but was adjourned to the following day due to their absence.

The committee expressed displeasure with the ministers’ absence, considering the importance of the ministry to the survival and growth of Nigeria’s economy.

It consequently adjourned till Monday, December 18.

The lawmakers vowed to deal decisively with the ministers, using every legal instrument available if they fail to honour the invitation again.

The permanent secretary in the ministry, Gabriel Aduda, who was present with some officials, offered to represent the ministers. The lawmakers said he lacked the institutional capacity to engage with them.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Albert Bassey, expressed dissatisfaction with the ministers’ attitude.

He said: “I am so disappointed, the same reasons yesterday we shifted this meeting. Today again, we have not seen them. We cannot keep shifting. Maybe they are not ready, but nobody will undermine the powers of the National Assembly.”

While emphasising the importance of the ministers explaining the 2024 budget details, he said they had no business being ministers if they couldn’t defend their budget.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, also expressed disappointment with the ministers, going by the critical role of the oil and gas sector in the nation’s economy.

He pointed out that President Bola Tinubu, as the supervising minister, had appointed two ministers of state, underlining the significance of their presence during the constitutional exercise.

“It is to say the least, very disappointing”, while emphasizing that the ministers’ disregard for the National Assembly’s invitation would not be tolerated.

“We are individually and collectively disappointed. We are disappointed because this is one ministry where the success and survival of the economy of the Federation lies.






     

     

    “And most of all, this is a ministry that the President is the supervising minister, and because of the importance of this ministry, he has also taken, by way of wisdom, to appoint two ministers of state in this ministry. Here we are engaging this all-important ministry for a constitutional exercise where we represent the interest of our people, but we don’t have any of the ministers here in attendance.

    “The President has made it clear that coming to the National Assembly to defend the budget is sacrosanct, and no one can compromise that. So, in our view from the inaction of these two ministers of state, it is like taking the presidential instruction for granted. They are also taking the sanctity of this institution where the sovereignty of the people lies for granted.

    “This is not a personal thing. It is in the discharge of our responsibility to our dear nation, and when anyone is trying to be funny about it, we have various instrumentality available to this institution (the National Assembly) to deal with him”, he said.

    Doguwa told the ministry’s permanent secretary, who wanted to represent the ministers, “You cannot do it. Your height is short of engaging us here with the ministry where you have the President as the supervising minister.”

    Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.

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