Budget 2016 crisis rages on

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Budget 2016 crisis rages on

Budget 2016 crisis rages on
April 11
06:15 2016

• Lagos-Calabar rail project ‘not included’ • Talks open to avert showdown • The row over the budget is deepening

House of Representatives Appropriation Committee Chairman Abdulmumin Jibrin reacted angrily yesterday to the report that President Muhammadu Buhari was stopped by ministers from signing the 2016 Appropriation Bill because of its “mutilation” by lawmakers.

The lawmakers were accused of removing crucial capital projects from the document and inserting some items not originally included. But Jubrin (APC Kano State), took to twitter to denounce the executive for the report. He exonerated the lawmakers from any wrong doing.

He said in a series of tweets: ”The Lagos-Calabar Rail was never included (in the budget estimates). How could NASS (National Assembly) have removed what was not there? But the nation is being misled.

“All they and those spreading the false information needed to have done is check the initial document sent by the Executive.

“The Executive seems to favour a top-down approach. But this is not enough reason to mislead Nigerians on the role of NASS on the budget.

“I actually find it shocking that even some national dailies made the removal (of Lagos-Calabar railway project) their headlines. A little research would have helped. This is unfortunate as it is quite clear to all and sundry that 2016 Budget and all its headaches and controversies didn’t emanate from NASS. The NASS has always been on the receiving end of bad press. This is being capitalised on in the conversations on the budget.

“Take the budget of the Ministry of Transportation, which was overshot by N54b. That is, by the time you add up the items on the ministry’s budget, you would still have a gap of N54 billion. The money was lying there without being allocated. NASS has a responsibility and it did the right thing. We added N39.7billion (from the unallocated N54 billion) to the Lagos-Kano Rail project. This will help complete the project once and for all.”

Jibrin noted that N10 billion of the unallocated fund was added to aviation sector’s budget to provide airport navigation system and security apparatus. The balance, he said, was allocated to Baro Ports for its completion and equipping. “Baro Port is strategic to our economic development,” he tweeted.

The House Appropriation Committee chairman said the National Assembly found the budget of Ministry of Health as most controversial, criticising Minister Isaac Adewole for denying the ministry’s budget after it was represented by the executive.

He also accused the executive of discarding the input made to the 2016 Budget by the National Assembly, saying: “Some of our input, including special intervention for rural agriculture, payment of pension arrears, Rural Community Light project, special intervention for the Solid Mineral sector, special programmes for women, payment of debt owed local contractors, and another N50 billion for special training on Entrepreneurship for students of tertiary institutions pre-graduation, were discarded.

“These points are being noted because of the reports in some of today’s (yesterday) papers. Not to mention the fact that the Executive has not come out to disown the false reports flying around. (Journalists) would have done better with a little more research. We will come up with a comprehensive position, especially with respect to our observation of the budget and what we did to make it better.”

On the issues relating to the Ministry of Health, he said it was not true that the money meant for vaccines and AIDS treatment in the budget was reallocated to the Code of Conduct Bureau. There was no allocation for vaccines, he said.

“The Minister of Health came to deny the document that was presented to the NASS by the Executive for the second time. Much ado about vaccines that weren’t even there? The budget of the Ministry of Health was the most controversial.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Abdulrasak Namdaz, said:

“What we did in respect of the budget was in good faith. We share in the vision and mission of the President. That was why we passed the supplementary budget in record time without hitches

“This is the first time both the President and ourselves are working together. We will not do anything to delay the thinking of the President. We will get to understand ourselves later

“I pray that Nigerians will understand that we are working for the same people that elected us. When you have a budget, certain things will be added and others removed. That does not mean it is done in bad faith.”

The National Assembly gave the details of the budget to the Executive last Thursday after which an emergency meeting of the Federal Executive Council was called on Friday to properly scrutinise the document where it was found out that the lawmakers removed some key components of the government’s policy plank and inserted some items not included by the executive.

Among the items removed is the legacy Coastal railway Calabar-Lagos project, whose N60 billion counterpart funding had been paid. The project is also one of the reasons President Muhammadu Buhari is in China on a week-long visit.

The votes for the completion of the Idu-Kaduna rail project was cut by N8.7billion. Proposals for the funding of essential drugs for major health campaigns against AIDS and Polio were said to have been removed.

There was diversion to rural health facilities and boreholes for which provisions were not made. Allocations for projects under agriculture and water resources were either removed or slashed.

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