2017 Budget Senate slams Fashola, explains why Lagos-Ibadan road budget was slashed

The senate said it slashed the budget having measured the country's needs against available resources.

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Nigeria's Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) play

Nigeria's Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN)

(Punch)
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The Senate says its decision to cut the budget of some major projects of the Federal Government in the 2017 budget was due to the need to prudently channel public funds.

In a statement issued on Friday, June 23, by the Senate spokesperson, Sabi Abdullahi,  he said the lawmakers measured the country's needs against available resources before slashing the budgets.

Abdullahi said the Senate concluded that it would be more prudent to channel public funds towards smaller projects that are necessary for the citizens but might not be commercially viable.

"What we reduced from Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in the 2017 budget estimates was spread on Oyo-Ogbomoso Road in the South-West, Enugu-Onitsha Road in the South-East, and two other critical roads in the North-East and North-West. This was done to achieve equity," Abdullahi said.

The senator faulted the statement by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, that lawmakers trimmed funding for the Second Niger Bridge and Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in order to hike their own budget.

The National Assembly's budget was jacked up to N125 billion in the 2017 budget, from N10 billion.

Fashola had lamented that lawmakers removed some signature infrastructure projects the administration planned to develop or complete before 2019 and replaced them with over 100 roads in rural areas.

The Minister had said, "I am not saying that the legislature cannot contribute to the budget, but I hold the view that it cannot increase the budget because they do not collect the revenue with which to run or implement the budget.

"It is unconstitutional for the National Assembly to legislate on state roads."

Fashola said the budget for Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was slashed by more than two-thirds from N31 billion to N10 billion, even as contractors have demanded an outstanding payment of N15 billion.

"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," he added.

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The Second Niger Bridge, which is under construction, was designed as a second bridge across the River Niger between Asaba in Delta State and Onitsha in Anambra State.

In his statement, Abdullahi said the picture Fashola painted was "a deceit of the highest order."

The lawmaker said Fashola knew that the projects would not be completed in 2019 even if their respective funding were untouched.

"Just going by the last two years of funding where an average of N30b per annum was released, then the nation would have to wait for the next six years for completion of the work," the senator said.

According to him, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway would have been due for completion this year had Fashola not cancelled a 2013 agreement the last administration signed with some private investors.

Under the Private Finance Initiative, the government agreed to pay 30 percent of the contract sum while private investors finance the larger part. But the agreement was cancelled even though construction work on the expressway was 30 percent executed.

Abdullahi said lawmakers "voted N40 billion" for the expressway, which is the busiest in the country, in 2016, only for the administration to release N26 billion and divert the rest.

"The rest N14 billion could have been allocated to other critical roads across the country," he said.

He accused Fashola of scheming for major projects for his ministry to enable him to supervise big contract awards.

"Mr. Fashola obviously wants the Federal Ministry of Works to have many construction projects it can award contracts for and that is why he would always oppose any attempt to allow the private sector financing initiatives through Public Private Partnerships," he said.

"It is our view that the Federal Government cannot fund the reconstruction and maintenance of all the 34,000 kilometres of roads under its care. We are looking for private funds for some of these roads, particularly those with high potentials of attracting private investors.

"The National Assembly already has an agreement that if for example, the Private Finance Initiative does not materialise to provide the needed funds for the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, just as in other areas where government has issues with the budget, the instruments of virement and supplementary budget can be used.

"This is as a result of our belief that it is one government and we all share the gains of the successes and pains of the failure," he said.

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