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Raji Fashola, W. P. & H. Minister
The House of Representatives has lashed out on Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babantunde Raji Fashola for claiming that the National Assembly included many projects that were not presented in the budget defence before the committees.
Fashola had claimed that the budget for Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced from N31 billion to N10 billion; that of 2nd Niger Bridge briddge was reduced from N15b to N10b(actually N12b to N7b); and that about N3 billion was also removed from Okene-Lokoja-Abuja Road. He also said the Budget for Mambila Power Project was also cut.
But the House said the claim was inaccurate and misleading.
This is coming barely three days after the Upper Chamber of the House had cautioned the Minister against spreading wrong information and half-truth about the 2017 budget.
The House tagged as false Fashola’s claim that some of the roads introduced into the budget had no designs and that items like primary healthcare and boreholes were introduced into the budget of the Ministry which are State matters.
According to a statement issued on Saturday and obtained by DAILY POST, the House said “We make the following clarifications in answer to the obvious attempt to blackmail the National Assembly, paint it as an irresponsible institution not concerned with the welfare of the people, and set the Executive and Legislature on an unnecessary collision course on matters of power rather than issues that benefit the Nigerian people.
”On the issue of power of appropriation, the House noted that apart from the constitutional provisions in Section, 4, 59, 80 and 81, we wish to bring to public notice, the most recent judicial pronouncement on this issue in the case of FEMI FALANA V the President FRN & 3 Others, Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2014 delivered on 9th March, 2016. In this suit, the Federal High Court was asked by Chief Falana, who was described as a meddlesome interloper in the judgement to make a declaration:
“Whether by virtue of S. 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the 3rd Defendant (National Assembly) is competent to increase or review upward any aspect of the estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next financial year prepared and laid before it by the 1st Defendant”.
The statement further debunked the minister’s claim that N5 billion was taken from the budget for 2nd Niger Bridge, stressing that, “the truth is that in the 2016 Budget, N12 billion was appropriated for the 2nd Niger Bridge and not a kobo was spent by the Ministry. Not a kobo. The money was returned. The Ministry could not provide the Committees of the National Assembly with evidence of an agreement on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) or a contract for the 2nd Niger Bridge. The National Assembly, in its wisdom decided to fund other projects from the South East leaving N7 billion for the 2nd Niger Bridge that may yet be UNSPENT. The projects include – N2.5 billion extra for Enugu/Onitsha Road, N1 billion more for 9th Mile/Nsukka/Makurdi Road; additional N500m for Oturkpa- Makurdi to take care of evacuation of agricultural produce up to Maiduguri ; N1 billion more for Ikot Ekpene-Aba-Owerri Road etc. These are strategic Roads in the South-East and North Central parts of Nigeria that had inadequate allocations.
“The National Assembly had to intervene to fund some other critical roads that were totally neglected in the Executive Budget proposal. “Example is the Abuja- Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Road that had Zero allocation from the President’s proposal and no contract even in spite of due process certification. N5 billion was provided in the 2016 Budget. It was not utilised. In 2017 Budget, the National Assembly again provided N3 billion for this very critical road that connects many states and where incidents of kidnapping are rife because of bad roads, as we believe that all parts of Nigeria deserve attention or would the Minister also claim that this road has no design?
On the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the house stated that leadership meetings of both the Executive and Legislature were held where it was clarified that alternative funding exists for the Road through PPP arrangement and the concessionaires had enough money to fund the project. That informed the decision to move some funds to other areas of need and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing is fully aware of this but chose to ignore it. Why spend government money if there is a clear existing funding framework in place and so many ongoing road projects are unfunded?
“On a general note, we need to remind the Honourable Minister that the Budget of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is NOT his PERSONAL BUDGET; it is part of the Budget of the Federation. The National Assembly and others are also stakeholders in this country, imbued with patriotism to fix Nigeria’s problems. There are certain matters which the National Assembly Committees discover during oversight activities that are corrected during the budget process. There are so many omissions which the National Assembly makes effort to correct on behalf of Nigerians. Even the Ministries also disown allocations contained in their budgets! Should the National Assembly keep quiet and moot and allow infractions patently exposed in the “Executive proposals? We think that the Constitution did not design the National Assembly as a “rubber stamp” as eloquently stated by His Excellency Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker, House of Representatives.
“It is true that Fashola is a SAN, an eminent lawyer and former Governor, but does that warrant his repeated insults hauled at the National Assembly? He claims that certain matters are State or even Local Government matters. He mentions Primary Health Care as an example. If one may ask why has he not led effort to abolish the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, a federal government agency? As a Senior Lawyer, he should be aware of what is called CONCURENT LIST, and the provisions of S.4(4)(a) and S.4(5) of the Constitution .