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A coalition of 75 pressure groups in Nigeria under the aegis of Campaign Against Legislative Rascality (CALR), has asked the National Assembly to fastrack the completion of ongoing road projects in the country by releasing the funds which had been earmarked for them.
The organisation specifically accused the Senate of blackmailing the Presidency and putting the executive in public odium as if no achievement had been recorded in infrastructural development since the present administration came into office in 2015.
The coalition appealed to the Senate and House of Representatives to quickly reconvene and pass the virement transmitted to the National Assembly by the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), to alleviate the sufferings presently being experienced by commuters and transporters throughout the country.
The Director-General of CALR, Prof. Yusuf Dankali Madaki, who raised the issued in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday, described the action of the lawmakers as “a calculated mischief and ploy to discredit the Presidency ahead of the 2019 general elections.”
The coalition warned against playing politics with the destiny of the masses who use the roads, saying work had been suspended by contractors on most of the projects following unsettled debts by the Federal Government.
It was reported that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to prioritise some major arterial routes in the country as ‘Flagship Projects’ for urgent intervention.
The roads are Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja; Kano- Maiduguri; Lagos- Ibadan Expressway; Oyo-Ilorin-Jebba; Benin-Shagamu; Onitsha-Enugu-Port-Harcourt; 2nd Niger Bridge and Loko-Oweto Bridge.
Works have been suspended on most of the projects by the contractors following unsettled debts by the Federal Government.
The debts were said to have been incurred because the National Assembly had slashed the funds meant for the projects.
For instance the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway reconstruction/rehabilitation project in the 2017 budget was slashed from N31.5 billion to N10 billion.
The budget for other roads were also slashed to accommodate constituency projects of the lawmakers.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), had in his reaction the raised alarm on slashing of the budget for the roads by the legislators for which he was summoned for offending their sensibilities.
But Madaki said the National Assembly could be up to something else because it had no reason to withhold the funds at the detriment of road users.
He said, “We are surprised that budget for the road projects could be slashed by the lawmakers, resulting in non-settling of the money owed the contractors.
He appealed to the National Assembly to release funds meant for the roads in the interest of road users so that contractors could go back to site.
“The National Assembly should as a matter of urgent national importance consider the virement submitted by the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), as agreed by both the Executive and Legislative arms of government when the 2017 budget was signed by the Acting President.
“This will enable the Ministry of Works to make funds available to the various contractors handling these road projects. Because of the delay in funding these projects, commuters and Nigerians have continued to suffer.
“The suspension of work on the project is not good enough because these are routes that are used by several families from all parts of the country and thousands of road users. We know their game plan, it is to discredit the Presidency before the masses, all because of the 2019 general elections. But the will of God is supreme; for us, blackmailing the Presidency is a harbinger of crisis. To play politics with the completion of these roads is uncalled for and unnecessary. And we think that the legislators should urgently reconvene from recess to revisit the issue.”