• Asks Goje not to trivialise issues he raised
By Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has told the Senate that he needs a good budget to work as a minister of the federal government, adding that the questions about how he performs on his job should be left to members of the public to determine.
Responding to comments made by the Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, who had criticised the minister for taking umbrage with the legislature for altering the budget of his ministry and other ministries, and hampering their ability to execute infrastructure projects, Fashola said the senator had trivialised the issues he raised about the unilateral slashing of the budgetary allocation to key national infrastructure by the National Assembly.
Fashola stressed that a good budget was a necessary tool for the executive to do its work.
He said when services are inadequate the Nigerian public would look to him and his colleagues in the executive to provide answers.
“I need a better budget as a tool to do my work and that is why l am speaking out,” said Fashola in a statement he signed.
He said he was currently attending the 35th Annual General Meeting of Shelter Afrique in Zimbabwe, but had to respond to Goje to refocus attention on the issues at stake.
According to him, Goje’s reference to the patriotism of legislators should not be spoken but demonstrated as regards his calls for a more developmental budgeting approach.
“In this context, it is left for Nigerians to then decide whether budgeting for constituency roads is more patriotic than budgeting to complete the Kano-Maiduguri road that connects five states, the Lagos-Ibadan road that connects three states and helps to move food, imported goods and fuel across the country; or the second Niger Bridge that connects the East and West geopolitical zones of at least 11 states together.
“I will also leave Nigerians to judge whether it is more patriotic to budget for the Mambilla power project that will contribute to more power across Nigeria or reduce the budget to build street lights in legislative constituencies,” he stated.
He said Goje’s response to the issues he raised should not have been about accusations of his blackmailing the legislature or referring to those who shared his views as his “surrogates”.
Reiterating his respect for the parliament as a house where very vigorous debates about development should take place, Fashola advised Goje to acquire the temperament for such debate and disagreement.
“Let me reiterate that I see parliament as a house where very vigorous debates about development should take place and it is important for Goje to acquire the temperament of debate and disagreement,” he said.
Decrying the senator’s admonition that he should learn how to “behave” like a “minister” and the reference to the Senate saying it was waiting to see how he would be “handled” by the House of Representatives, the Minister declared: “I think first that the language is unparliamentary and therefore not deserving of a reply.”
Noting that Goje’s faux pas gave a clearer insight into how the senator and those who may be minded like him may be thinking, having transited from the executive arm to the legislative arm, the minister called for caution.
“It seems that it is such people who need a behavioural prescription about legislative function,” Fashola said.
Fashola has been at loggerheads in recent weeks with the National Assembly for tampering with the budget of his ministry and that of other ministries.
An estimated N500 billion was shaved-off by the National Assembly from his ministry’s budget for projects including the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Mambilla power project and the second Niger Bridge.
The National Assembly was also accused of inserting 4,000 projects that were never contemplated in the 2017 budget drawn up by the executive.