NASS speaks on budget ‘padding’


 

The National Assembly yesterday reacted to allegations made against it by President Muhammadu Buhari on insertion of 6,403 new projects into the N9.12trillion 2018 budget and cuts-off about N347billion from proposed expenditure earmarked for 4, 700 critical projects .

This was as the federal Parliament disclosed that it blocked a fraud of N1.7bn through the N2bn proposed for the construction of Enugu Airport Terminal .

The lawmakers added that a total of N20billion allocated for one of the critical projects, the second Niger Bridge in the 2016 and 2017 budgets were not utilised by the executive and yet, deceiving Nigerians that work had assumed advanced stage on the project.

NASS, in its reaction, through a joint press briefing by spokesmen of both chambers , Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi and Hon Abdulrazak Namdas debunked the president’s allegation .

They said the cuts made in the budget and additional projects added into it were done in the best interest of the country and in collaboration with the executive.
According to them, adjustments and reductions in the locations, costs and number of projects approved were made in order to address geo-political imbalances that came with the Executive proposal.

The introduction of new projects was done to ensure the promotion of the principles of Federal Character as contained in Section 14, subsection (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended which states that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria…”

“The number of projects had to be increased in order to give a sense of belonging to every geo-political zone of the country to ensure socio-economic justice, equity, fairness, and to command National loyalty”, they explained.

Specifically, the lawmakers at the briefing said it was claimed that the provision for construction of the terminal building at Enugu Airport was cut from N2 billion to N500 million and that this will further delay the completion of this critical project.

“However, for the avoidance of doubt, it is necessary to again clarify that during the budget defense and oversight processes, the National Assembly discovered that out of the N2billion contract for the Enugu terminal building, N1.7billion had already been paid to the contractor. And what is left to complete this project is justN300million.

“Hence, the National Assembly approved N500million for the project — which is even N200million more than was required. We refer Nigerians to a publication in THISDAY newspaper published in April and titled “Giving Enugu Airport a Facelift” and written by the newspaper’s Aviation correspondent, Chinedu Eze, where the Minister of State (Aviation), Mr. Hadi Sirika was quoted as saying: “We just last week released N1.7billion to the contractor and hopefully also, within the shortest possible time, we will release another N300million for him so that they can quickly finish the airport terminal. This will bring the airport to its desired standard.”

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