Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, yesterday, expressed deep concern over the recourse of National Assembly’s spokesperson to name calling over his observations on the 2017 budget.
Fashola in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr Hakeem Bello, said he was worried that the National Assembly scribes failed to address the fundamental issues relating to cut in the allocations to several projects under his ministry and other ministries.
NASS had, through Senate’s spokesperson, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, accused the minister of attempting to instigate Nigerians against them by raising an alarm over cuts in allocations to his ministry and others.
But Fashola, yesterday, noted that though legislators could contribute to budget making, they had no right to unilaterally alter the budget after putting members of the executive through budget defence sessions and committee hearings, to the extent that some of the projects proposed would have become materially altered.
While acknowledging the need for legislative input from representatives of the people to bring forward their developmental aspirations before and during the budget production process, the minister said it amounted to a waste of tax payers money and an unnecessary distortion of orderly planning and development for all sections of the country, for lawmakers to unilaterally insert items not under the exclusive or concurrent lists of the constitution, such as boreholes and streetlights.
He listed Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Bodo-Bonny road, Kano-Maiduguri road, Second Niger Bridge and long drawn Mambilla Hydropower project, among others, as those the National Assembly materially altered allocations in favour of scores of boreholes and primary health care centres, which were never discussed during ministerial budget defence before the National Assembly.
Fashola said it was sad that the lawmakers would resort to name calling, even without understanding the facts of what they were getting into.
He said: “Taking the projects, which the lawmakers chose to focus on one after the other, 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.
“There is no fallacy or half truth in the allegation that the budgets were reduced. The spokespersons admitted this much and now sought to rationalize it by a concession or financing arrangement that has failed to build the road since 2006. The biggest momentum seen on the road was in 2016.
“In the case of the Second Niger Bridge, where one of the spokespersons alleged that the provision in 2016 budget was not spent and had to be returned, this displays very stark and worrisome gaps in knowledge of the spokesperson about the budget process he was addressing.”
According to him, a budget is not cash; it is an approval of estimates of expenditure to be financed by cash from the Ministry of Finance.
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