By Okey Ndiribe & Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA— MINISTER of Science and Technology, Professor Ita Okon Bassey-Ewa, was, yesterday, walked out by the House of Representatives over his inability to convert budget figures into percentages in his ministry’s 2012 budget.
The Reps also asked President Goodluck Jonathan to sack his Environment Minister, Hajiya Hadiza Mailafia for her failure to appear before them.
The Science and Technology Minister, engaged his supervising Committee in the House of Representatives in a shouting match when the members asked him to give the actual budget performance of his ministry.
The committee, chaired by Hon Abiodun Akinlade, had asked the minister to convert the ministry’s 2012 budget performance into percentage instead of providing it on item by item basis. Bassey-Ewa, who made efforts to convert same to percentage could, however, not do so to the consternation of the lawmakers.
Akinlade pointed out that the Minister had never taken the committee seriously just as he recollected that Bassey-Ewa had failed to provide the percentage performance of his ministry when the committee went to his office for oversight functions sometime ago.
Responding to the chairman’s comment, the minister shouted: “We are prepared; we are prepared. You can see that I have been trying to compute the percentage.” When cautioned by the Chairman that he should realize that he was appearing before a committee, which is an extension of the House, the minister replied that he was first shouted at by a lawmaker.
Due to his inability to answer queries from the committee, Akinlade, after consultations with his colleagues, ordered Bassey-Ewa to leave and get prepared to appear before the committee on another date.
After the Minister had walked out angrily, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Rabi Shuaibu Jimeta, apologized, on personal grounds, to the lawmakers and promised to put all figures together in subsequent engagement with the committee.
The committee had earlier queried the Minister on why he refused to recommend the appointment of a substantive Director-General for the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) when the Acting D-G of the agency, Engr. Mohammed Haruna, had stayed in an acting capacity for more than the regulatory six months.
The Minister agreed that Haruna had stayed for about eight months in acting capacity but told the lawmakers that the process for the appointment of a substantive D-G for NASENI had been completed and was awaiting the President’s ratification
Disagreement over how far the 2012 budget had performed in terms of percentages was a major plank of disagreement between the Executive and Legislature recently.
While Okonjo-Iweala was hitherto reported to have claimed 56 per cent implementation; the House of Representatives said it was 34 per cent; the Senate claimed it was just 21.56 per cent.
A piqued House of Representatives before going on recess last July gave President Goodluck Jonathan up to September to ensure 100 per cent implementation of the 2012 budget or face impeachment proceedings.
Meanwhile, the committee chairman in his opening remarks had lamented that the government had relegated the development of science and technology to the background by not including the sector in its six priority areas in the 2013 budget.
He said: “The President in his Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) earmarked six ministries as priority areas and unfortunately the Ministry of Science and Technology is not there. No country has ever enjoyed global attention without developing its Science and Technology potentials. It would be difficult to move this country forward without developing our technology.”