N2bn ‘padded’ into Housing Budget – Senate

 Summons finance minister
 I’m not aware – Fashola

By Taiye Odewale

The Senate was yesterday treated to another round of budget ‘padding’ as it uncovered the sum of N2billion voted for Regional Housing Scheme out of the N64.991 billioin budgetary proposals for the Housing sector this year.
And to the surprise of all, the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, told the Senate Committee on Land, Housing and Urban Development that he was not aware of the controversial vote.

In disowning the vote, Fashola told the committee that the vote was at the instance of Ministry of Finance, as its own initiative tagged: Regional Housing Scheme.
When queried by the committee Chairman, Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC Benue North East), on how they came about the Regional Housing Scheme, Fashola said; “I know as much of it as you do because it is not our initiative.”
Consequently, the committee chairman ordered the committee clerk to write the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun to appear before it for explanation on the questionable vote.

Other votes in the N64.199billion 2017 budgetary proposals of the Housing Ministry aside the questionable N2billion, as presented by Fashola are- National Housing Programme N41.89billion, construction, completion and rehabilitation of Federal Secretariats N5.379billion, Zik Mausoleum and Prototype Housing Scheme N1.325billion and Projects and Programmes under PPP N3.367billion.

Others are Cadastral URD and Lands N3billion, URD/Special Projects N2.140billion, Payment of Outstanding Local Debts N1.2billion and Constituency Outreach Intervention Projects N1.69 billion etc.
However, Fashola requested the committee to add N6billion to the total budget estimate of the Ministry as an appropriated vote for payment of the $11.9million Nigeria is owing Shelter Afrik, a Housing Development and Financing Organisation which has in its membership, 44 African countries.

According to the minister, who presently chairs the governing board of the organisation, indebted nations like Nigeria, were set to be expelled from the organisation by the end of this year if they refuse to pay up their dues to avoid total collapse of the development organisation.
But the committee told him to forward a written request through the Ministries of Finance and Budget/National Planning to the National Assembly.
Disagreement, however, ensued between the two parties when the seemingly moribund status of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), was raised.

While the committee queried the minister on why the agency was sidelined in the ministry’s implementation of the National Housing Programme, Fashola said, FHA as presently positioned, does not fit into projects delivery targets of the Ministry.
“The FHA delivered the FESTAC Town Housing Estate in Lagos in the 70’s, Gwarinpa Housing Estate in Abuja in the 90’s but mass Housing deliveries being carried out by the Ministry, in collaboration with Private Developers are not being done decades apart but on yearly basis, in line with government intension of addressing the problem of housing deficit on time”.

“If we are to address the housing deficit problem confronting Nigerians, it can’t be one decade or two decades intervention delivery model the FHA is known for.”
When pressurised further by the committee to carry along the FHA in the National Housing Programme, the minister said for now, the purpose of the Ministry and that of FHA are not united and according to him, “until our purpose is united, our action will not be united”.

He added that the key factors of acceptability and affordability, the private developers engaged by the Ministry are strictly adhering to, must be keyed into by FHA before considering it for participation in the programme.
The committee, however, insisted that the minister must carry the government agency along and urged him to include it as one of the ministry’s contractors in the implementation of the NHP this year.

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