No going back on budget, says Senate

senate• Wants fresh proposal for Lagos-Calabar rail line
• Chides panels’ heads over impasse
• Budget ministry explains issues with project
• Stakeholders want votes for vaccines restored
As Nigerians await resolution of the face off between the Presidency and the National Assembly over the 2016 budget, the Senate yesterday said that having passed the appropriation bill, it would not bend backward to introduce the Lagos- Calabar Rail project.

And if the rail project must be accommodated in the budget, President Muhammadu Buhari should submit a fresh proposal for it after assenting to the one it had just passed.

The senators took this stand as the Ministry of Budget and National Planning yesterday in Abuja said that the executive arm of government had not joined issues with the lawmakers, and proceeded to explain the circumstances surrounding the inclusion of the coastal rail project.

It was gathered that before reaching their decision, the Senators, at an executive session, were engaged in hot debate over issues arising from the disagreement between the Presidency and the National Assembly.

Some of the lawmakers were said to have expressed disgust about what they called counter statemen‎t issued by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Gbenga Ashafa, while others condemned the language used in the statement issued by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Ali Saabi Abdullahi.

It was also learnt that many senators complained that the appropriation committees did not carry members along in most of the final decisions taken on the budget.

Briefing journalists at the end of the closed-door session, Abdullahi said the Senate resolved that President Buhari could present a supplementary budget to take care of the Lagos-Calabar Rail project.

Abdullahi said: “Now, one thing that is obvious is that we have passed the budget. Nigerians are asking what next for us; what is important now is for the budget to be signed.
“The constitution has taken note of this kind of scenario where you may have omissions or shortfalls of allocations, and Section 81 of the constitution is very clear on what you need to do which is to sign the budget and then submit a supplementary appropriation.”

Frantic efforts were being made yesterday in Abuja to douse the tension generated by the budget impasse so that a middle ground could be reached to prepare a seeming convivial atmosphere before the president’s return to facilitate early assent to the budget bill.

A communication line is believed to have been opened between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who holds sway temporarily and the leadership of the National Assembly, but the details were not clear at press time.

The explanation from the Budget and Planning Ministry came amidst subtle declaration from the Ministry of Transportation that it had video evidence to prove that the Lagos-Calabar rail project for which N60 billion was appropriated by the ministry was in fact presented to the lawmakers.

The National Assembly Joint Appropriation Committee had claimed that the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, did not include the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail project in the 2016 budget presented to the lawmakers.

In its statement, the Budget and National Planning ministry, through the Media Adviser to the Minister, Mr. James Akpandem, wrote:

“In view of the recent controversies surrounding the 2016 budget, it has become necessary to state the following so as to set the facts straight:

“With reference to the specific issue of the Calabar – Lagos rail project, we will like to state that the two railway projects, Lagos – Kano and the Calabar – Lagos, are very important projects of the present administration; and it was always the intention of the Executive to have both projects reflected in the budget submitted to the National Assembly.

“However, it will be recalled that the Budget Office made a number of errors in the initial proposals of a number of ministries.

These errors were all corrected by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the corrected versions were submitted to the relevant committees of the National Assembly. This included that of the Ministry of Transportation.

“The amended Ministry of Transportation budget was accepted by the relevant committees and that was the version defended by the Minister of Transportation and his team.

“It must be emphasized that the two rail projects are part of those for which the President is currently negotiating funding with the Chinese government.”

Also, there is growing concern in the health sector over allegation that the National Assembly has tampered with the figures allocated for the procurement of critical vaccines required to save the lives of children in the budget sent to the President for assent.

Concerned stakeholders are asking the legislative chambers to return the proposed funds to the budget before the Presidential assent.

At a press conference for the upcoming Anglophone Africa Peer Review Workshop on Sustainable Immunization Financing held in Abuja, yesterday, stakeholders wondered why the National Assembly would want to reduce the import of vaccination. They called for sustainable immunization financing in Nigeria.



9 Comments
  • emmanuel kalu

    This just pure madness and costing the country deeply. The president should include the lagos- calabar rail line in the budget and give it back to NASS. Nigerian’s should not continue to suffer while this fools play politic.

    • yinka

      Senate gave Buhari a budget that is not in line with development of the nation and wanted him to sign it. These senators are acting as if all the members elite group which is answerable to nobody but themselves. US Senate cannot COMMAND to sign any budget. In fact, it is act of stupidity to publicly make a statement that they will not revisit it. Let see who will bend, PMB or Saraki and his agbero gang

    • Burbank

      NASS already had the corrected version and was dicussed by the senators themselves.

      “These errors were all corrected by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the corrected versions were submitted to the relevant committees of the National Assembly. This included that of the Ministry of Transportation.
      The amended Ministry of Transportation budget was accepted by the relevant committees and that was the version defended by the Minister of Transportation and his team.”

      Even the senators disagreed among themselves –

      “the Senators, at an executive session, were engaged in hot debate over issues arising from the disagreement between the Presidency and the National Assembly. Some of the lawmakers were said to have expressed disgust about what they called counter statemen‎t issued by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Gbenga Ashafa, while others condemned the language used in the statement issued by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Ali Saabi Abdullahi.”

  • isaac orogun

    It is appalling,
    how the committee chairmen on
    appropriation have excluded such an important project that was presented and
    defended before them by the ministry of transport from the final budget sent to
    the president for assent. If this rail
    project is one of those for which counterpart funding is being sought by Mr.
    President in China, then the Senate in the interest of Nigerians should
    reconsider and include this project now instead of waiting for a supplementary budget
    that will take several months of debate by the Assembly before approval is secured because of other projects they would want to arm twist the Executive to include.

  • FirecloudOFGOD

    You crooks. The law will eventually catch up with you all! Nigerians have scant regard or respect for you are all wicked and of no use or value to anyone.

    What laws have you passed in the last 3 months? What about in the last 6 or 9, except to share booties at the expense of Nigerians.

    We are getting wiser to your antics. There are still a few respectable and honest politicians amongst you, they are however still too few to make a difference as long as the house is ‘led’ by a crook! You CANNOT suppress the people forever.

  • LAGOS DEPOT

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  • LAGOS DEPOT

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  • First Class Receptions

    Section 4 of the Constitution spells out the role of the Legislature while Sections 80-83 capture their role with regards to public finance. None of those provisions empowers them to write the Appropriation for the Executive.

    To start with, the executive is the government. They are the ones who sell us their vision for governance through their manifesto. By voting them in, we empower them to achieve those aims, and one of the tools they use is the budget. They have an idea of their priority areas and economic direction. It’s those priorities they capture in their bill.

    The Constitution empowers the National Assembly to appropriate funds for those priority areas identified by the Executive in their Bill. If they disagree with an input, they have the right not to appropriate funds and send that item back to the Executive.

    The Constitution does not say in what manner they can send it back, but by not appropriating funds, they can make their intentions very clear. In more advanced democracies, there will then be meetings and horse trading and some form of agreement will be reached.

    But from what the honourable member tweeted in defence of the National Assembly, what they did was not just refuse appropriation, they went further to input projects and expenditure on the Executive. Let’s be clear. They have no such right or power under the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

  • “It must be emphasized that the two rail projects are part of those for which the President is currently negotiating funding with the Chinese government.” And the project was kicked out of the budget? What a country!

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