• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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NASS threatens sanction as petroleum ministers shun budget defence again

Akpabio’s 10th Senate breaks tradition, operates without legislative agenda

The joint committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on petroleum resources upstream have threatened decisive action against the ministry and ministers of petroleum after they consecutively failed to appear before the committee to defend the 2024 budget of the ministry.

The joint committee had scheduled a session with the Heineken Lokpobiri, minister of state, Petroleum Resources (Oil), and the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources (Gas), on Wednesday, December 13, but was adjourned to Thursday due to their absence.

On Thursday, all relevant committees on oil and gas and critical stakeholders were seated by 1 pm, but the session stalled again because the ministers were absent with no explanation given.

The Committee Chairman, obviously infuriated by the absence of the ministers especially because of the importance of the ministry to the survival and growth of Nigeria’s economy was forced to adjourn to Monday, but vowed to deal decisively with the ministry, using every legal instrument available if the ministers fail to honour the invitation again.

Gabriel Aduda, permanent secretary of the ministry who was present with some officials offered to hold a brief on behalf of the ministers, but the lawmakers rejected it saying he lacked the Institutional capacity to engage with the lawmakers.

Albert Bassey, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), voiced his dissatisfaction saying, “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.”
He emphasized the importance of the ministers explaining their intentions for the 2024 budget. “If they don’t have it, then they have no business being ministers”, he said.

Similarly, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, Chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), conveyed collective disappointment, highlighting the critical role of the oil and gas sector in the nation’s economy.

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

Ado-Doguwa decried that the ministers seemed to be taking the presidential instruction and the sanctity of the National Assembly for granted.

“It is, to say the least, very disappointing” while emphasizing that the ministers’ disregard for the National Assembly’s invitation and the presidential directive 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 Federatlielies.
“And most 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, and here we are engaging this all-important ministry for a constitutional exercise were 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, the inaction of these two ministers of state is like taking the presidential instruction for granted, they are also taking the sanctity of this institution where the Sovereignty of the people 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”, the Chairman said.
He told the permanent secretary of the ministry 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.”

According to him, the permanent secretary is only a civil servant and is not a member of the Federal Executive Council.

The joint committees then resolved to give the ministers another chance, stressing that failure to attempt means that the National Assembly will be compelled to invoke the instrumentality of the Laws available to it to deal with the ministry.