A member of the Senate Committee on Trade, Senator Adams Oshiomhole, has criticised the Minister for Trade, Industry and Investments, Doris Uzoka, for proposing N1 billion in the 2024 budget for a foreign trip to Geneva, Switzerland.
Uzoka appeared before the Senate Committee on Trade on Tuesday, December 12, to defend her budget.
The minister told the joint committee that N905 million was earmarked for overhead costs while N8.1 billion was allocated to capital expenditure.
Reacting to her presentation, Oshiomhole, Senator representing Edo North, urged the minister to utilise in-country expertise to cut costs, emphasising the need for homegrown products and questioning the lack of data on Nigeria’s Balance of Trade.
He said, “I see that you intend to travel to Geneva next year and you have budgeted over N1bn for that.
“We can’t keep going on with over-bloated teams on foreign trips. Use the experts we have in your offices in the country to save costs.
“Madam sit in your office and work for Nigerians. I have gone there twice. You are always in the Bank of Industry. If you preferred BoI, you should have declined the President’s nomination to be a minister.
“Let’s practise what we preach. We can’t talk about industrialisation and keep importing toothpicks and tyres. We must ensure that we have homegrown products.
“What is our balance of trade, especially with China? Those countries exporting things to Nigeria are expected to build factories in Nigeria. We have to take advantage of our population to grow our industries?”
In her response, the minister defending her budget stated that she could work from anywhere, and revealed plans to establish a Trade Intelligence Unit for generating and storing trade data.
She said, “I assure you that I can work from anywhere and give Nigerians results. My office is currently under renovation.
“Sir, I regret to say that we seem to have no record of our balance of trade. Or at least, it doesn’t exist in the ministry and that is why we initiated a new unit called Trade Intelligence Unit to ensure that such data is generated and stored.”
However, Oshiomhole disputing the claim, asserted that relevant data already exists with agencies like the CBN and Customs.