The decision by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, to include the Nigerian Communications Commission among the Federal Government agencies that must submit their annual budgets to the ministry for approval has pitted her against the National Assembly.
Adeosun had during a media briefing in Abuja last week after the first Federal Executive Council meeting in the year, included the NCC among other revenue-generating agencies to submit their budgets to the ministry for approval.
But reacting to the minister’s position, the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Solomon Adeola, asked Adeosun to remove the NCC from the list of agencies that must submit their budgets to her or be ready for a clash with the National Assembly.
Adeola, who was the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, in the Seventh National Assembly, said in a statement on Sunday that under the NCC Act, only the legislature was empowered to consider and approve the budget of the commission.
He warned that any attempt by the minister, who is also supervising the NCC, to approve the budget of the agency would amount to a breach of the law and an encroachment on the functions and powers of the legislature.
Adeola said, “I am surprised that the minister was quoted as including the NCC among other agencies required to submit budgets to her and other supervising ministers for approval.
“As well-intentioned as this may seem in the effort to generate revenue and block leakages, it is a flagrant contravention of the NCC Act as well as usurping the power of the National Assembly to approve the budget of the NCC.”
The senator representing Lagos West referred the minister to Sections 17 to 21 of the NCC Act that dwell on the financial provisions for the commission.
He added that the only fund, which the NCC was mandated to pay into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, was “all monies accruing from the sale of spectrum” as contained in Section 17(3) of the Act.
He said that the NCC was “a semi-autonomous commission in carrying out its functions.”
Adeola added that the Finance minister could only come in if the NCC wanted to borrow money, adding that Section 25(2) of the Act expressly forbade the supervising minister from undue interference in the operations of the commission.
“In the execution of his/her functions and relationship with the commission, the minister shall at all times ensure that the independence of the commission, in regard to the discharge of its functions and operation under this Act, is protected and not compromised in any manner whatsoever,” he stated.
Adeola, nevertheless, said he supported the need to audit all revenue generating agencies.