Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola said the National Assembly’s response to his observation on the 2017 Budget did not address the issues he raised on the cut of allocation to critical projects.

He expressed concern over the recourse to name-calling and personal attack by the lawmakers and insisted that the legislators lack power to insert items in the budget prepared by the executive.

The minister said he was worried that spokespersons of the Senate and House of Representatives failed to state the reason the National Assembly cut allocations to key projects of the ministry.

Acknowledging that legislators could contribute to budget making, Fashola disagreed that members of the legislative arm have powers to alter items in the budget after putting the executive members through defence sessions and committee hearings.

The minister observed that it amounts to abuse and disregard for lawmakers to unilaterally insert items not contained in the original documents submitted by the executive. He listed the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Bodo-Bonny Road, Kano-Maiduguri Highway, Second Niger Bridge and Mambilla Hydropower Project, among others, as those altered.

Fashola said contrary to the lawmakers’ claim, there is no subsisting concession agreement on the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway, adding that the Infrastructure Construction Regulatory Commission (ICRC) only has a financing agreement with a consortium of banks, which must be paid back through budgetary provisions.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr Hakeem Bello, Fashola said: “I acknowledge the need for legislators to make input in budget process as representatives of the people, but it amounts to a waste of tax payers money and an unnecessary distortion for lawmakers to unilaterally insert items not under the exclusive or concurrent lists of the Constitution, such as boreholes and streetlights after putting Ministries, Departments and Agencies  (MDAs) through the process of budget defence.

“It is sad that the lawmakers resorted to name-calling even without understanding what they were getting into. Let us take the projects, which the lawmakers chose to focus on, one after the other. I want the public to know there is no subsisting concession agreement on the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway. What the Infrastructure Construction Regulatory Commission (ICRC) has is a financing agreement from a consortium of banks, which is like a loan that still has to be paid back through budgetary provisions.

“In the case of the Second Niger Bridge, which the NASS spokespersons alleged that the provision in 2016 budget was not spent and had to be returned, it is a display of worrisome gaps in knowledge by the spokesperson about the budget process. The lawmakers must know that a budget is not cash; it is an approval of estimates of expenditure to be financed by cash from the Ministry of Finance.”

Fashola said the Ministry of Finance was yet to release cash for the Second Niger Bridge, noting that no money was returned.

He dismissed as “tissue of lies” the allegation that his ministry was holding on to projects that could be funded through Public Private Partnerships (PPP). According to Fashola, ministers have no unilateral power to award contracts to the tune of billions, adding that all new projects presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval were either federal roads requested by state governments or those put in the budget by the legislators to service their constituencies.

He said the spokespersons missed the point of his observation in the haste to launch personal attack on him. Fashola said he expected a more sober approach to solve the matter, rather than name-calling.

He said: “In any event, allegations of half-truth by the lawmakers are only a flawed response to the constitutional and developmental issues that I have raised about how to budget for the critical infrastructure. This kind of disagreement has plagued Nigeria since 1999. It shows the conflict between the executive that wants to build big federal highways, bridges, power plants, rail and dams on one hand and the parliament that wants to do small things like boreholes, health centres, street lights and supplying grinding machines.”

Describing the disagreement as an institutional matter, the minister said it won’t be out of place to seek resolution to the conflict at the Supreme Court to protect the country’s future.

Related posts