SAN FRANCISCO, June 24, (THEWILL) – The House of Representatives has revealed that the Executive arm of government budgeted N12 billion for the second Niger Bridge project in 2016, but that a kobo was not spent on it.
This was as it described as blackmail the statement credited to Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, that the National Assembly “imported” projects into the 2017 budget.
THEWILL recalls that Fashola had accused the National Assembly of altering the budget as well as making reductions to the budgetary allocations of some projects.
Reacting in a statement issued by its spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas, on Saturday, the House explained that it reduced the budgetary allocations of some projects for the sake of prudence.
It said the Executive budgeted N12bn for the second Niger bridge in 2016, but that the money was not spent on the project, explaining that it had to reduce the proposed fund for the project in the 2017 budget from N12bn to N7bn because it knew the money would not be spent on it.
The statement reads, “Fashola claimed that the national assembly included many projects that were not agreed on during the budget defence before the committees; that the budget Lagos-Ibadan expressway was reduced from N31 billion to N10 billion; that 2nd Niger Bridge budget was reduced from N15 billion to N10 billion (actually N12 billion to N7 billion); that about N3 billion or so was removed from Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road; that the budget for Mambila power project was also cut.
“He further claimed 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. Mr Fashola further said that the national assembly has no powers to increase or tinker with the budget.
“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.
“To the specific issues raised, it is very misleading and calculated mischief to simply say that N5 billion was taken from the budget for 2nd Niger bridge. 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 eoad, 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, 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?”
The house also said that Fashola proposed a ‘whopping N17 billion for only environmental impact assessment (EIA)’ for the Mambila power project, but that it felt that ‘N17 billion for EIA was misplaced and patently unjustifiable’.
“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 Reps added.