- Says N5bn diverted to non-existent project
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
As controversy over the non-inclusion of the Lagos-Calabar Rail line project in the 2016 Appropriation Bill rages, the All Progressives Congress (APC) South-south zone has punched yet another hole on the bill passed recently by the National Assembly.
The party accused the Senate Appropriation Committee and its counterpart in the House of Representatives of doctoring the budget and removing almost N5 billion meant for the total rehabilitation of the collapsed and terrible Calabar-Odukpani–Itu –Ikot Ekpene federal highway and reallocated it to a non-existent constituency project in Kano State.
In a statement issued yesterday by the National Vice Chairman (South-south), Prince Hilliard Eta, the party said the action was a setback to the progressive change and at variance with the infrastructure development agenda of the APC-led federal government.
“We are very upset that our representatives at the National Assembly would discard decorum and hinder progressive change by acting at variance with the infrastructure development agenda of the APC-led federal government. The arbitrary removal of the Lagos-Calabar rail project by the National Assembly from the 2016 budget is a display of depraved indifference to the welfare of Nigerians.
“The deletion is not just arbitrary, it is a big disservice to the people of Nigeria, particularly the South-south zone which the proposed railway line would have traversed.
“Also, the total rehabilitation of the collapsed and terrible Calabar-Odukpani –Itu –Ikot Ekpene federal highway which was allotted N6 billion by the federal government in the budget was doctored and almost N5 billion removed and reallocated to a non-existent project in the constituency of the Chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, in Kano State.
“By these two acts, the Senate and House of Representatives displayed the astonishing contempt in which they hold Nigerians. The National Assembly exists to ensure that Nigerians get the best from their government using the instrument of purposeful legislation, but the eighth assembly, by this budget padding debacle has not only brought itself to ridicule, it has also proved itself unworthy of the trust and confidence of Nigerians.”
The statement said there is the need “for a re-examination of the powers of the legislature to establish if really it has the power to doctor and alter projects or totally remove them from the budget even after the minister under whose ministry the said projects fell under had credibly defended them and justified their inclusion,” Eta said.
It said the APC South-south zone was disappointed with the role of the Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Senator Danjuma Goje, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, who directly supervised and even actively abetted such debauchery.
“As a party in the South-south zone, we make public our disenchantment with the National Assembly and we are particularly disappointed by Goje and Jibrin who directly supervised and even actively abetted such debauchery.
“The South-south zone of the APC demands that the budget be reverted to its original form and all the development projects conceived and included in the budget by the federal government be retained without alteration. We also advise the legislature to refrain from giving the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari a bad image by attempting to deprive Nigerians of the dividends of democracy under any guise.
“Lastly, we shall approach the courts of the land for a clear interpretation of the role of the National Assembly in the passing of the national budget as it is evident that it overstepped its bounds by unnecessarily tinkering with the budget when its constitutional duty is mainly supervisory.
“It is time we Nigerians begin to show a keen interest in the affairs of the legislature as only that can put a stop to the kind of shady alterations that the budget was subjected to while it was being evaluated by the National Assembly,” the statement said.