The Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Monday prevented Abubakar Aliyu, Minister of State for Works and Housing, from defending the ministry’s 2020 budget allocation.
Aliyu had appeared before the Senate committee alongside the Permanent Secretary and other senior ministry officials but was declared incompetent by the committee to defend the budget.
The senators noted that the minister was just appointed recently and will, therefore, be unable to respond to some of the questions they would like to ask concerning the performance of the ministry’s previous budgets, particularly on the implementation of some 2019 SDGs projects.
Senator Aishat Dahiru, the Committee Chairman, stated that Babatunde Fashola, the substantive Minister of Works and Housing, was the official who signed off the majority of the ministry’s correspondences and, therefore, demanded that his presence at the defence budget session.
She said: “Most of the replies to correspondences the Committee exchanged with the Ministry were personally signed by Fashola.
“The issues for which the Committee is seeking clarification took place when Fashola was Minister of Power, Works and Housing, hence, he is the only one competent to shed light on them.
“The minister decided to travel after agreeing on the session with the committee only to send the Minister of State to represent him.”
The committee subsequently turned down Aliyu from defending the budget and adjourned to 2pm for Fashola to arrive at the session.
But the Minister of State notified the committee that Fashola was out of the country on an official engagement and that he was personally mandated by the substantive minister to represent him at the session.
Aliyu stated that he had been properly briefed by senior ministry officials on the budget.
He said: “Besides, I am here with senior government officials of the Ministry, including the Permanent Secretary.
“I have been adequately briefed to respond to all aspects of the 2019 budget implementation in the ministry.”
This, however, did not persuade the Senators, who insisted on the presence of the substantive minister at the session.
Senator Teslim Folarin, a member of the committee, criticised Fashola for being absent despite the directive recently issued by President Muhammadu Buhari, barring all ministers from foreign travels during the budget defence period.
Responding, the Minister of State informed the committee that Fashola was granted permission by the president to proceed on his journey out of the country.
But Senator Godiya Akwashiki said the committee remained unanimous that Fashola should appear before it in person.
Other members of the committee in attendance were Senators Adedayo Adeyeye, Danladi Sankara, Lekan Mustapha and Gabriel Suswam.