2017 Budget: Reps reject Aviation Ministry’s budget defense

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Ministry of Aviation’s 2017 budget estimates is at a risk of not being considered unless a comprehensive presentation was made to the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation within 48 hours.

This is because officials of the Ministry failed to satisfactorily defend some expenditures of the Ministry in the 2016 budget document.

Defense of a preceding year’s budget is a condition for the consideration and adoption of the budget estimates of the current fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika has disclosed that the process for the closure of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja is complete, adding that Kaduna State is also ready for the expected human and vehicular traffic upsurge during the period.

At the Ministry’s budget session Thursday, Director of Finance, Akin Ijiwole failed to convince the Nkeiruka Onyejeocha-led Aviation Committee on how N407m was committed to a N700m project but had zero performance recorded in the budget document.

In addition, while the Committee expressed concern over budget releases, budget performance and physical development, it questioned the rationale behind the completion of 22 capital projects out of 98 while 28 projects out of 32 were completed for Overhead.

The Committee also sought explanation for the release of N25m out of N320m for Enugu Airport control tower with fiscal year running out.

The Committee wondered if the project would not end up as another abandoned project.

Onyejeocha said: “There is an urgent need to discuss procedures for making the aviation sector self-sustaining in line with the stance on diversification.

“The aviation sector is of enormous importance to our nation and matters concerning expenditure and revenue projections require careful consideration to reap the benefits the sector has to offer”.

In his response, Sirika said the decision of the government was to complete all abandoned projects, which was the reason behind the mobilisation of contractors that have abandoned several projects across the country, citing Enugu and Port Harcourt Airports

On the closure of Abuja Airport, he said, “We have done all we can, the process for closure of the airport is compete.
“Even on security, we have constituted a Security Committee headed by an Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) with high ranking military and other security agencies officers as members.

“Their mandate is to provide maximum security on the Abuja-Kaduna road for the users of the road.

“The government of Kaduna State is also ready for the closure by offering to repair a section of the road leading to the Kaduna Airport, in addition to enhancing the road with street lights and cleared bush.

“The State will also construct a bye pass route for users of the airport to avoid heavy traffic within the town.

“The government has also assured that other auxiliary services are ready with provision of restaurants and others.”

However, when asked to break down the figure in the budget document, Director of Finance, Ijiwole failed to convince the Committee with his explanation.

This led the Committee to warn that the consideration of the Ministry’s 2017 budget would be affected unless full information on the real percentage of project completion as well as a comprehensive and comprehensible budget estimates presentation was made to it within 48 hours.