MINISTER, NYSC BOSS BICKER OVER BUDGET
A BUDGET defence session of the Ministry of Youth Development yesterday pitted the Minister, Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, against the Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig.-Gen. Maharazu Tsiga, when both appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Youth and Social Development.
This came as the Tsiga canvassed a 100 per cent increase in the allowances paid to corps members, saying the current allowances are not commensurate to the services rendered by the young graduates.
Two agencies under the purview of the Youth Ministry, the NYSC as well as the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre, were at the National Assembly yesterday to defend their budget estimates.
But for the deft handling of the situation by the House Committee, which organised the meeting, the situation would have degenerated into an altercation between Olasunkanmi and Tsiga.
Specifically, the forum was organised to have an appraisal of the 2010 budget performance as well justify the 2011 estimates of the ministry and agencies.
The NYSC boss had told the Depo Oyedokun-led House panel that he forwarded the budget appraisal and estimates of the NYSC to the minister, displaying the official communication to that effect, but the Minister denied seeing anything relating to the budget prior to his appearance before the committee.
'I have due respect for the Minister because NYSC is a Federal Government establishment. He should find out from his finance office whether there was any communication when he travelled. I sent the budget and it was delivered to the minister's office,' Tsiga said, as he presented a file containing the copy of the letter of the said correspondence to the committee chairman.
Responding, Olasunkanmi told the committee that he was not disposed to obliging answers to any question pertaining to the NYSC's budget. 'Don't ask me any question about the performance of the 2010 budget because I have not seen it. If you agree that I can make my presentation without the analysis of the performance, that is fine by me and I can go ahead,' he said.
When the minister was later allowed to present the ministry's budget independently, another drama ensued when he insisted that he would not wait while the NYSC and the other agency make their presentations, as, according to him, he could not be listening to presentations he would not be able to defend. This was said to have prompted Tsiga to render an open apology.
'I don't have any problem relating to any of my staff or parastatal at all, the review of the 2010 performance is the matter. The practice is that I should present the budget for the ministry and the parastatals, so it will be irresponsible of me to sit down here while they answer questions on what I cannot defend,' Olasunkanmi said.
Tsiga however noted that 'there is no grumbling at all, but let us go and check our weaknesses. If any clerk refused to pass a message I sent to the minister, the DG should not be crucified for that. It is because of internal weaknesses within our junior staff.'
He appealed to the minister to forgive him if he had done anything wrong. He also called for restraint to what he described as the minister's consistent attack on his person. 'I can never disrespect my minister. Tomorrow I may not be in the NYSC, I may be somewhere else, and you (Olasunkanmi) in another place,' he said.
Again, when Tsiga informed the House Committee that the N43.3 billion total estimates offered the NYSC for 2011 via the Federal Government's envelop was not enough for the corps members, the minister interrupted him, arguing that the NYSC boss was not in a position to complain over that.
His words: 'The Executive Council has given us an envelope; you cannot come here and say that is not enough.' He said the lawmakers could use their discretions to alter the estimates if need be.
Fielding questions after he was persuaded to stay, and had listened to their presentations, at a closed-door meeting with the lawmakers, ostensibly to douse the tense atmosphere, Olasunkanmi denied any misunderstanding between him the management of the two agencies, insisting that they had 'been working together as a family.'