- A recent action by lawmakers in the National Assembly has attracted criticisms from various groups and experts
- The lawmakers were said to have altered some of the budgetary provisions of the 2017 budget
- This did not go down well with public commentators, groups and analysts
A report by The Punch indicates that prominent groups and economic experts are not happy with members of the National Assembly for reducing the budgetary allocations for projects such as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Second Niger Bridge.
According to the report, the lawmakers reduced the budget for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway from N31bn to N10bn, while the vote for the Second Niger Bridge was cut from N15bn to N10bn.
Interestingly, the lawmakers increased their own budget to N125 billion in 2017 as against N115bn budgeted in 2016.
Civil rights organisations said the National Assembly, by slashing allocations for the projects and increasing its own votes, had shown that it was selfish.
The minister of power, works and housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), had earlier raised the alarm over the insertion of projects outside the purview of his ministry into the 2017 Appropriation Act by the National Assembly.
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Fashola said it was unfair to the executive arm for the inclusion of such projects after public hearings on the budget and defence of the fiscal estimates by the ministries.
“What I have in my budget now is primary health care centres, boreholes,” he said at an interactive session with journalists.
He continued: “That was the meeting we had with the acting president and that was the reason why the budget was not signed on time.
“We were asked to complete those abandoned projects; the budget of Lagos-Ibadan expressway was reduced by the National Assembly from N31bn to N10bn.
“We owe the contractors about N15bn and they have written to us that they are going to shut down.
“Also, the budget of the 2nd Niger bridge was reduced from N15bn to N10bn and about N3bn or so was removed from the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road budget.’
Meanwhile, the Campaign for Democracy and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open said the National Assembly members should investigate the slow pace of the completion of projects rather than starving them of funds.
The president of the group, Usman Abdul said: “The National Assembly’s attitude towards the budget for the expressway is wrong. The Lagos-Ibadan expressway is a road that has been ongoing for a long period.
“You would expect the lawmakers to investigate what has brought the slowness or abandonment of the project. The lawmakers should be concerned with the completion of the project. The reduction of the budget (to the project) is not acceptable.”
On his part, the executive director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said it was unfortunate that the legislative arm of government had put its personal interest above that of the nation.
He stated that the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, which is one of the busiest expressways in Nigeria, should have been given the priority it deserved.
“All Nigerians, whether old, young, rich, poor or any tribe, use this road. It is a major road that links the South-West to other parts and they should know that a government that is not doing things to make the citizens happy is not fit to be called a government.
“They can reduce but to add to their own budget is, to me, a terrible thing to do. It is as if what is most important to them is their interest and not the overwhelming interest of the majority of Nigerians, which is bad,” Mumuni said.
Also speaking on the issue, the registrar, Chartered Institute of Finance and Control of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Eohoi, stated that the reduction in allocations by National Assembly might affect budget performance.
His words: “On the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the National Assembly should work with the executive to ensure that the road is completed on schedule.
“While we do not expect government to budget huge funds to it because it is on concession, there is a need to ensure that the percentage of government funding is released to ensure the completion of the road.”
A developmental economist, Odilim Enwagbara, in his reaction, said while it was within the powers of the National Assembly to alter projects contained in the budget, the executive should seek creative ways of raising funds to finance projects.
He said with the huge infrastructure deficit currently facing the country, it had become clear that budgetary allocations to capital projects would not achieve the desired impact.
Enwagbara recommended public-private partnership, concession and privatisation of these projects by the government to the private sector to enable the projects to be completed on time.
He said: “I am suggesting we privatise all those roads, get major investors from China, Europe and other countries to buy off these roads, build them and toll them for 30 to 35 years.”
But the House of Representatives spokesman, Honourable Abdulrazak Namdas, fired back saying, “Are these commentaries still necessary after an Appropriation Bill has been signed into law?
“We have since gone past talking. We should be talking about implementation of the 2017 Appropriation Act.
“The budget is now a law and it has to be implemented.”
Meanwhile, the minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun on Monday, June 19, said N350 million will be released for the implementation of 2017 budget.
The minister said the money will be used to fund capital projects in the country, adding that there the will be a cash-plan meeting with all the relevant ministries and agencies on the release of the fund.
Watch the NAIJ.com TV video below of the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi talking about the achievements of the federal government.