James Emejo in Abuja
At the resumption of the two-week Sallah break Tuesday, House of Representatives passed a resolution to summon the Minister of Works, Power and Housing for allegedly breaching the House privileges as well as maligning the 2017 budget which had already been passed by both the legislative and executive arms of government.
The Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, subsequently announced the constitution of an ad-hoc committee chaired by Hon. Aliyu Madaki (APC, Â Kano) to among other things, summon the minister and cause him to establish the veracity of media reports attributed to him- where he reportedly questioned the powers of the National Assembly to alter projects in the 2017 appropriation Act which was submitted to it by the executive.
The minister was reportedly angered that most of the capital projects submitted by his ministry were either expunged and replaced by new ones or drastically reduced by the lawmakers- and questioned their powers to make such alterations.
The public expression of frustration by the minister was however, viewed by the legislature as an attempt by Fashola to portray the former in bad light and as enemy of the people.
Nevertheless, the lower House decided to offer the minister the benefit of the doubt to appear and either confirm or deny the statements credited to him in the media.
He might say he was misquoted to lessen the pressure from the lawmakers or affirm the media reports and begin a battle with the lower chamber.
But the altercation between Fashola and the National Assembly had made headlines in the mass media throughout the Sallah break, with both parties exchanging brickbats on the issue.
In the motion bordering on the abuse of House privilege by Fashola, which was moved on the House floor by Hon. Sadiq Ibrahim, (APC, Â Adamawa), members utterly condemned the ministerâ€™s utterances, describing it as an abuse of privilege, having been screened and approved as minister by the green chamber.
Ibrahim said though the minister had freedom to speech, he erred in addressing an issue which had already been laid to rest by both the executive and legislature.
The lawmakers argued that their personal integrity as well as that of the National Assembly was at stake following the ministerâ€™s denigrating remarks- a development which they said puts the harmonious relationship of the legislature and the executive at risk.
Investigations by THISDAY however, revealed that the lawmakers were particularly displeased that Fashola had allocated about N90 billion in capital projects to the South-west while allocations to other zones put together do not amount to that of the South-west. Â The case of Kano-Abuja road, which was initially removed from the budget was specifically cited by sources, although the executive is now trying to reintroduce it through virement.
A sourceÂ who did not want to be named, said the lawmakers viewed the lopsided projects in the ministry as a great injustice to Nigerians, coupled with the fact that the minister also indicated that the National Assembly appeared not to understand their role in the budgeting process.
It was learnt that the National Assembly has had to tinker with the budget as submitted by executive because most of the projects do not address the needs of their constituencies.
The minister, it was learnt, failed to turn up during the budget defence processes but sent directors who had limited ability.
Specifically, the lawmakers are surprised that most of the motions passed on the House floor on award of roads in various constituencies were not accommodated in the budget, requiring their intervention to balance the divide.
Fashola, it was gathered ought not to have commented on a budget which had been already passed and in which he was part of the process because an agreement had been reached at top levels on how to address grey areas.
It was further learnt that the executive is in the habit of awarding projects without funding.