The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has expressed deep concern over the recourse of the National Assembly’s spokespersons to name calling over his observations on the 2017 Budget.
In a Press Release signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Hakeem Bello, the minister saidhe was worried that the National Assembly spokespersons failed to address the fundamental points about development-hindering whimsical cuts in the allocations to several vital projects under the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing as well as other ministries.
Mr. Fashola had, in a recent interview while acknowledging that legislators could contribute to budget making, disagreed with the practice where the legislative arm of government unilaterally alters 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 the representatives of the people to bring forward their developmental aspirations before and during the budget production process, the minister had observed that 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 like boreholes and streetlights after putting Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAS, through the process of budget defence.
Specifically with regards to the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Fashola listed the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, the Bodo-Bonny road, the Kano-Maiduguri road, the Second Niger Bridge and the long drawn Mambilla Hydropower Project among others as those that the National Assembly materially altered the allocations in favour of scores of boreholes and primary health care centres which were never discussed during the Ministerial Budget Defence before Parliament.
In their responses, both the spokespersons of the Senate and the House of Representatives accused the minister of spreading “Half-Truths” and making “Fallacious “ statements because he (Fashola) should have known that they only interfered with projects that had concession agreements and private sector funding components. They also accused the minister of wanting to hold on to such projects in order that he may continue to award contracts.
However, while dismissing the allegations in the course of an official trip outside the country, Mr. Fashola said it was sad that the lawmakers would resort to name calling even without understanding the facts of what they were getting into. Taking the projects which the lawmakers chose to focus on one after the other, the minister insisted that there is no subsisting concession agreement on the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway adding that 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, he said. The spokespersons admitted this much and now sought to rationalise 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, Mr. Fashola added.