N’ Assembly laments bad roads, poor budget execution

Also, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, has defended its performance against a House committee’s claim that it is impeding its oversight job on the anti-graft agency.

Addressing stakeholders who came for the defence of the 2010 budget of the ministry, the chairman of the committee, Kabir Jalo, noted that huge sums of money had been spent on roads construction and rehabilitation since the return of democracy in 1999 but there is nothing to show for the expenditure.

“The roads are still very bad despite the quantum of money the National Assembly has been appropriating for the repairs. There is a big gap between the amount of money spent on the roads and what is on ground. Nigerians are worried and as their representatives, we cannot fold our hands. We want to know what went wrong and where,” he said.

The chairman further said that when the appointment of the Works Minister, Hassan Lawan, was announced, many Nigerians expressed joy but after one year, he was yet to convince them that he could perform.

“When you came on board, there was an applause from Nigerians. Now, we want to know what is happening,” he remarked.

Nafada said the lawmakers had been under intense pressure from their constituents over the terrible condition of the roads and would begin to embarrass government officials who failed to perform.

“We are representatives of the peoples and our constituents are worried. We know their problems and that is why we insist on making input into the activities of government. We are going to embarrass you people because we are here to do that so that government agencies can rise to the expectations of Nigerians,” he said.

But Lawan explained: “The situation of the roads, to say the least, is unfortunate. The problem did not start with the present administration. They have been neglected over the years. We have started doing something about them but the rains did not allow us but I can assure you that all will be well going by what we are doing now. We need a little patience for our efforts to begin to yield visible results. Our desire is to sustain the momentum and that is why we are not embarking on many new projects.”

He also disclosed that the ministry had adopted a new approach by redistributing the road projects in a manner that all the geo-political zones in the country would benefit.

However, Lawan reiterated that the major challenge was funding, which he said was why some of the road projects are still not being taken care of.

Spokesman of the Senate, Ayogu Eze, who equally spoke at a budget defence session with the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, said the 20 to 40 per cent implementation recorded by the Executive for 2009 was unsatisfactory and unacceptable to Nigerians.

He also asked Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to stop asking for funds for projects, which they lack capacity to execute, a situation he noted, was largely responsible for the poor implementation of budgets.

His words: “We want to inform you that this is more than half the tenure of this administration and we want to let you know that the Nigerian people are impatient. They are very disappointed with the way budget business has been conducted in this country. Our experience from our consultation and interaction with the executive is that we are going to be very serious with the budget implementation and budget performance this year. We are not going to accept excuses anymore. Because anything we are not able to achieve with this budget, it has to be another administration that will achieve it. I say so because, next year, the parties will become very serious with their primaries to put people in all branches of government especially executive and the legislature. We will be distracted no matter how we pretend about it. 2011 is actual election year. We all know the process that election takes.

“It is not acceptable that every year, we will come and sit down here and go over the ritual and at the end of the day money is released or not released but we get information that the budget performance hovers between 20 and 40 per cent. That is not acceptable. Performance of budget is supposed to be 100 per cent. The reason why the MDAs are asked to make requisition for the money that they require is to ask for resources within their capacities. But I found out that a lot of MDAs don’t have capacity to spend their budget. In this ministry, we are not going to tolerate that. If you have constraints as a result of shortage of funds or whatever, let us know so that we see how we can intervene. But don’t come back and give us excuses about why you fail to perform satisfactorily.”

Eze also expressed displeasure over the failure of the Minister of State for Information and Communications, Alhaji Aliu Ikra, to attend the budget defence session.

He urged Akunyili to write Ikra on the consequences of not honouring the invitations of the committee.

“You must write to him to let him know that he is Minister of State for Information and Communications. What you people are doing in the executive is not what we are doing in the legislature. We can’t get involved in this small politics. He has to be here when we call,” Eze remarked.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Information and Media has summoned the Minister of Finance, Mansur Muhtar; Bureau for Public Procurement Director General, Emeka Eze and the NTA’s management to explain the rationale for awarding a N3.8 billion contract to Sonny Corporation (America).

They are to be led to the committee today by Akunyili.

But Akunyili, in defending the Ministry’s 2009 expenditure, informed the panel that about N129 million was spent on the re-branding Nigeria project in 2009.

The sum of N350 million has been put down for the same project in the 2010 fiscal year.

Waziri’s defence followed the lawmakers’ accusation that the EFCC lacked transparency and their consequent indefinite suspension of the commission’s appearance to defend its 2010 budget proposal.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Rabe Nasir, in a letter to Waziri, said the inability of the commission to submit to the National Assembly its quarterly reports has rendered it impotent in the discharge of its oversight functions.

The letter stated: “Quarterly reports reflecting your periodic activities including achievements and constraints (normally submitted every three months) have not been submitted to this committee by the commission in the past 18 months.

“Report on budget performance for the current year (2009) has never been written to the committee even though the committee overlooked this dereliction in respect of the 2008 budget exercise.

“It is evident that due to the above, the committee has not been able to fully and satisfactorily discharge its constitutional oversight functions on EFCC.”

The lawmakers said that Waziri has rebuffed all letters written to the commission requesting the submission of the said documents.

 



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