Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mine, Steel Development and Metallurgy on Monday, November 1, 2021, frowned at the abandonment of Ajaokuta Iron and Steel in Kogi State.
The Committee also lamented the yearly envelope budgeting for parliamentary approval that has not improved the welfare of Nigerians.
Committee members became irked when the Minister of State for Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah presented a proposed budget of N23.4 billion as estimates for the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, which was considered too meagre for the Ministry.
The proposal didn’t factor in the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel project, which the lawmakers claimed the Federal government wasn’t ready for serious business in the solid minerals sector.
Ogah who represented the Minister, Arch 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.
Members of the committee decried the meagre budgetary allocation for the sector maintaining that the Solid minerals sector should rank second after the oil and gas sector.
Tanko Al-Makura, the chairman of the Committee, stressed that the annual budget has “become a garbage in garbage out” process, which has been a sad story over the years.
“The type of budgeting process being carried out in the country over the years is a stereotypical one. It is wrong for a budget to be conceptualised in the ministry, enveloped and forward to the National Assembly for approval”.
Raising the tempo of the anger in his own contribution, Senator Smart Adeyemi representing Kogi West Senatorial district said the economic team of President Muhammadu Buhari is clearly out of tune with the realities on ground as regards what Nigerians need.
“How on earth would a Minister propose N82 billion for procurement of Mosquito net and a sector as important as the Solid Minerals is given N10 or N11 billion?
“Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Complex that can give jobs to about 50, 000 Nigerians but has been lying fallow in a country with an army of unemployed youths who can stage a 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 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 an 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 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 N2 billion on yearly basis but has increased to N6.2 billion now with a target of hitting N10 billion by the end of the year.”
A perusal of the proposal could not continue as copies of budgets were not distributed to Senators on time. The chairman of the committee adjourned the sitting and asked for the Ministry’s reappearance on Monday next week.