Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The National Assembly yesterday absolved itself of blame over the deplorable condition of federal roads in Benue State, describing as a “fallacy of the highest order,” a statement credited to the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, on the state of the roads.
The National Assembly was responding to recent claims by Fashola that the federal parliament was responsible for the terrible state of roads in Benue State.
Fashola was quoted to have made the allegation last Monday in Abuja while playing host to retired generals and ‘other leaders of thought’ from Benue South Senatorial District, led by Air Vice Marshal Morgan (rtd.), following their complaints about the deplorable state of roads in the senatorial district.
Reacting to the allegation, Senate spokesman, Senator Ajibola Basiru, said in a statement that the National Assembly should not be held responsible for the deplorable state of roads, whether in Benue State or any part of the country.
According to Ajibola, the decision to respond to the claims by the minister became imperative in order to set the records straight, particularly against the backdrop of how critical the issue of road infrastructure is to the nation’s development.
He said: “Much as the upper chamber would not want to engage in any unnecessary altercation with the minister, it is, however, necessary to speak up because the issue of road infrastructure is too important and controversial a matter to be ignored where the National Assembly has been fingered by a serving minister.
He said: “The records must be set right so that the two arms of government should not be seen as working at cross purposes in the course of delivering good governance to the electorate.
“For 2020 fiscal year, the National Assembly approved the request for N265, 868, 037,093 billion for capital expenditure by the executive. The executive later brought a revised allocation of N256, 734,983,667, which we also appropriated. As we speak, even in the budget proposal for 2021, the executive proposed a capital expenditure of N363, 266, 425, 976.
“The upper chamber cannot help but wonder where Mr. Fashola got his figure of N600 billion, which he said was proposed by his ministry and allegedly not approved by the National Assembly.
“The Senate, therefore, invites Nigerians and specifically the minister’s guests from Benue South Senatorial District to note that figures do not lie.”
Ajibola listed three road constructions, which are ongoing in Benue South to include: Oju -Adum Okuku road at N 91,180 000; Otukpo Township road at N357, 200, 000; and Oju/Loko – Oweto bridge at a cost of N357, 200, 000.
The Senate spokesman described allegations by the minister that the National Assembly gave priority to constituency projects over other projects as an attempt to incite Nigerians against the legislature.
Basiru said: “On the minister’s allusion and or allegation to prioritising constituency projects over other projects, the Senate affirms that the minister was merely calling a pity party and being sentimental.
“The (Fashola’s) statement was made to set the National Assembly on a collision course with the people they are democratically representing.
“It should be emphasised, therefore, that never diverted allocations specifically meant for other projects to constituency projects as the constituency projects have allocations in the budget.”
The Senate said the execution of constituency projects lies with the executive through its various ministries, agencies and parastatals.