The Senate on Saturday warned Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Mr Babatunde Fashola, to desist from spreading falsehood on the 2017 Budget with regards to projects under his ministry.
It said that in passing the Appropriation Bill, the legislators worked and applied equity in provision for new and outstanding projects across the country.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Sen. Sabi Abdullahi, in Abuja, the upper chamber said that Fashola did not give the public details about the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which was on private finance initiative from beginning.
It said that Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and the Federal Executive Council, in 2013, approved the reconstruction, rehabilitation and expansion of the expressway on Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) basis, “using private finance initiative”.
“The Federal Government provided about 30 per cent of the funding while the balance shall be provided by the private sector.
“The project was on course for completion by end of 2017 when the private finance initiative was being implemented, with over 30 per cent completion rate attained as at early 2015.
“But, in a blatant disregard for existing agreements, constituted authorities and extant laws, Fashola on assumption of office, got the government through the ministry to start voting money for the implementation of the project.
“Even, as at last year, the 2016 Appropriation Act voted N40 billion for the project on the insistence of the ministry and only N26 billion was released.
“If we had known, the rest N14 billion could have been allocated to other critical roads across the country,” it said.
It added that due to concerns and in the spirit of consensus-building and effective stakeholder engagement, the leadership of the Senate met with relevant stakeholders, including the Ministries of Works, and Finance.
According to it, it was agreed that we should give the Private Finance Initiative a chance to complement government’s resources in the delivery of critical infrastructure across the country.
“Hence, in this year’s budget, we have engaged with the government and private sector groups, who have assured that they will resume funding of the project.
“So, we only provided the fund in the budget that would ensure that work does not stop before the funds from the private sector start coming in.
“It is our view that the Federal Government cannot fund the reconstruction and maintenance of all the 34, 000 kilometres of roads under its care,” the senate said.
It explained that what was necessary was the need for private funds for some of the roads, particularly those with high potential of attracting private investors.
It said, “With private sector finance initiative, the rehabilitation of the road can be completed on time because full funding will be provided and there will be more certainty.
“The minister’s statement is in bad taste.”
The statement said that the National Assembly acted in the national interest to ensure that equity and fairness were achieved in the distribution of projects.
The senate said that it also ensured that all sections of the country had representation in the national budget as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Similarly, the House of Representatives said that Fashola peddled “inaccuracies, misleading and calculated mischief” about the 2017 budget.
In a news conference on Saturday in Abuja, Chairman of Committee on Media and Publicity, Rep. Abdulrazak Namdas, said that the minister’s statement tended to blackmail the National Assembly and set it on a collision with the executive.
He said that the minister was fixated on matters of power rather than issues that would benefit Nigerians.
According to Namdas, there was an obvious attempt to blackmail the National Assembly, paint it as an irresponsible institution, one not concerned with the welfare of the people.
He said that because part of funds allocated to Second Niger Bridge in 2016 was returned at the end of the year, the national assembly reduced allocation to the project in the 2017 Budget by N5 billion.
Namdas said that the deducted was applied to fund other projects in the South-East, and left N7 billion for the Second Niger Bridge.
“The truth is that in the 2016 Budget, N12 billion was appropriated for the Second Niger Bridge but not a kobo was spent by the ministry. Not a kobo was spent and the money was returned.
“The ministry could not provide the Committees of the National Assembly with evidence of an agreement on the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) or a contract for the Second Niger Bridge,’’ he said.
Namdas said that the legislature also queried an omnibus allocation of N20 billion in the ministry’s budget whose details were not provided by the minister.
He explained that it would have been irresponsible of the lawmakers to appropriate funds that were not tied to specific projects, adding that for doing so, “we incurred the wrath of the ‘almighty minister’”.
He reiterated that the national assembly had powers in Sections, 4, 59, 80 and 81 of the 1999 Constitution (Amended) to amend the budget estimates submitted by the executive.
Namdas said that the decision to redistribute the projects proposed by the ministry was in order to ensure even spread of projects across geo-political zones, which the proposal of the executive failed to do. (NAN)