© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Reps: ‘Almighty’ Fashola angry with us because we didn’t grant him N20bn for unspecified projects
The House of Representatives has accused Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, of nursing anger against the legislature because it turned down his request for a lump sum of N20billion without specifying the projects on which the money would be expended.
In a statement released on Saturday by Abdulrazak Namdas, Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, the green chamber also challenged Fashola’s claim that the National Assembly lacks the right to introduce new projects to the budget.
It said that in the 2016 budget, N12 billion was appropriated for the 2nd Niger Bridge but not a kobo was spent by the ministry. It said the money was returned because 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 2nd Niger Bridge.
The statement added that in its wisdom, the legislature decided to fund other projects from the south-east, leaving N7 billion for the 2nd Niger Bridge that may yet be UNSPENT.
The projects were listed as: N2.5 billion extra for Enugu/Onitsha Road, N1 billion more for 9th Mile/Nsukka/Makurdi Road, additional N500m for Oturkpa-Makurdi to take care of evacuation of agricultural produce up to Maiduguri and N1 billion more for Ikot Ekpene-Aba-Owerri Road.
THE FULL STATEMENT
MR. FASHOLA’S MISLEADING STATEMENTS AND FALLACIES ON 2017 BUDGET
The House of Representatives have noticed the pattern adopted by elements in the executive arm of government to delegitimize the 2017 Appropriation Act signed into law by Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON on June 12, 2017.
2. It started with the statement by the Ag President on Monday, June 12, 2017 during the signing ceremony, and followed by his address to MDA’s on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, where he claimed that the National Assembly has no power to introduce new items into the budget or alter same. These statements have been adequately addressed by His Excellency, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara during the House plenary on Thursday, June 15, 2017 where the Speaker made it clear that the National Assembly is not a rubberstamp of the Executive as it has undoubted power of the purse which is the position in most presidential systems of government. The President of the Senate also echoed a similar viewpoint.
3. We would have ignored the recent press briefing by the Hon Minister of Works, Power and Housing (HMWP&H), Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, on the 2017 Budget, but for the need to set the records straight and correct fundamental inaccuracies contained therein.
4. Mr. Fashola claimed that the National Assembly included many projects that were not agreed on during the Budget defence before the Committees; that the Budget Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced from N31 billion to N10 billion; that 2nd Niger Bridge budget was reduced from N15b to N10b(actually N12b to N7b); that about N3 billion or so was removed from Okene-Lokoja-Abuja Road; that the Budget for Mambila Power Project was also cut.
5. He further claimed that some of the roads introduced into the budget had no designs and that items like primary healthcare and boreholes were introduced into the budget of the Ministry which are State matters. Mr. Fashola further said that the National Assembly has no powers to increase or tinker with the budget.
6. We make the following clarifications in answer to the obvious attempt to blackmail the National Assembly, paint it as an irresponsible institution not concerned with the welfare of the people, and set the Executive and Legislature on an unnecessary collision course on matters of power rather than issues that benefit the Nigerian people.
7. On the issue of power of appropriation, apart from the constitutional provisions in Section, 4, 59, 80 and 81, we wish to bring to public notice, the most recent judicial pronouncement on this issue in the case of FEMI FALANA V the President FRN & 3 Others, Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2014 delivered on 9th March, 2016. In this suit, the Federal High Court was asked by Chief Falana, who was described as a meddlesome interloper in the judgement to make a declaration:
“Whether by virtue of S. 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the 3rd Defendant (National Assembly) is competent to increase or review upward any aspect of the estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next financial year prepared and laid before it by the 1st Defendant”.
Justice G.O. Kolawole answered the question in the negative and declared that:
“The 3rd Defendant was not created by the drafters of the Constitution and imbued with the powers to receive “budget estimates” which the 1st Defendant is constitutionally empowered to prepare and lay before it as a “rubber stamp” parliament, The whole essence of the “budget estimates” being required to be laid before the 3 Defendant, is to enable the 3rd Defendant as the assembly of the representatives of the people, to debate the said “budget proposals” and to make its own well informed legislative inputs into it. …… It will be reading into the provisions of Section 81 of the Constitution what the drafters never put into it to say that the 3rd Defendant “is not competent to increase or review upward any aspect of the estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the federation for the next financial year prepared and laid before it by the Defendant”.
8. To the specific issues raised, it is very misleading and calculated mischief to simply say that N5 billion was taken from the Budget for 2nd Niger Bridge. The truth is that in the 2016 Budget, N12 billion was appropriated for the 2nd Niger Bridge and not a kobo was spent by the Ministry. Not a kobo. 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 2nd Niger Bridge. The National Assembly, in its wisdom decided to fund other projects from the South East leaving N7 billion for the 2nd Niger Bridge that may yet be UNSPENT. The projects include – N2.5 billion extra for Enugu/Onitsha Road, N1 billion more for 9th Mile/Nsukka/Makurdi Road; additional N500m for Oturkpa- Makurdi to take care of evacuation of agricultural produce up to Maiduguri ; N1 billion more for Ikot Ekpene-Aba-Owerri Road etc. These are strategic Roads in the South-East and North Central parts of Nigeria that had inadequate allocations.
9. The National Assembly had to intervene to fund some other critical roads that were totally neglected in the Executive Budget proposal. Example is the Abuja- Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Road that had Zero allocation from the President’s proposal and no contract even in spite of due process certification. N5 billion was provided in the 2016 Budget. It was not utilised. In 2017 Budget, the National Assembly again provided N3 billion for this very critical road that connects many states and where incidents of kidnapping are rife because of bad roads, as we believe that all parts of Nigeria deserve attention or would the Minister also claim that this road has no design?
10. On the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, leadership meetings of both the Executive and Legislature were held where it was clarified that alternative funding exists for the Road through PPP arrangement and the concessionaires had enough money to fund the project. That informed the decision to move some funds to other areas of need and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing is fully aware of this but chose to ignore it. Why spend government money if there is a clear existing funding framework in place and so many ongoing road projects are unfunded?
11. On the Mambila Power Project, the Minister proposed a whopping N17 Billion for only Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). N17 Billion Naira! The National Assembly felt that N17 Billion for EIA was misplaced and patently unjustifiable! The Minister himself even wrote to the National Assembly to move some funds from this sub-heads to others!
12. On a general note, we need to remind the Honourable Minister that the Budget of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is NOT his PERSONAL BUDGET; it is part of the Budget of the Federation. The National Assembly and others are also stakeholders in this country, imbued with patriotism to fix Nigeria’s problems. There are certain matters which the National Assembly Committees discover during oversight activities that are corrected during the budget process. There are so many omissions which the National Assembly makes effort to correct on behalf of Nigerians. Even the Ministries also disown allocations contained in their budgets! Should the National Assembly keep quiet and moot and allow infractions patently exposed in the Executive proposals? We think that the Constitution did not design the National Assembly as a “rubber stamp” as eloquently stated by His Excellency Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker, House of Representatives.
13. Also contained in the budget of the FMWP&H is an omnibus allocation of N20 Billion. The details were not provided by the Minister. The National Assembly would be irresponsible to appropriate funds that are not tied to specific projects. Mr. Fashola pushed hard to have the lump sum of N20 billion approved for him without specifying which project it will be spent on. He wanted the details to be left only to him to decide at his discretion. The National Assembly refused to do this and incurred the wrath of the almighty Minister.
14. He claimed that the National Assembly cannot increase the 2017 Budget. He conveniently forgot that the MTEF had a $2 increase per Barrel that was not applied or part of the 2017 Appropriation Bill proposed by Mr. President. How was this to be applied? If applied would that not amount to an increase? Did the Executive not propose new projects and increases in the budget figures of about N41.7 Billion after Mr. President presented the Budget?
15. It is true that Fashola is a SAN, an eminent lawyer and former Governor, but does that warrant his repeated insults hauled at the National Assembly? He claims that certain matters are State or even Local Government matters. He mentions Primary Health Care as an example. If one may ask why has he not led effort to abolish the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, a federal government agency? As a Senior Lawyer, he should be aware of what is called CONCURENT LIST, and the provisions of S.4(4)(a) and S.4(5) of the Constitution .
S.4 – “In addition and without prejudice to the powers conferred by subsection (2) of this section, the National Assembly shall have power to make laws with respect to the following matters, that is to say:-
(a) any matter in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in the first column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto”;
S.5 – “If any Law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other Law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void”.
16. Furthermore, Mr. Fashola should be told that his Ministry includes Housing and Urban Development that traditionally takes care of other small projects like water in Housing Estates and so on and should not be surprised if he sees such projects in his Ministry. Some of the projects are designed in furtherance of meeting the SDG goals. It is certainly disingenuous for him to pretend that some urban development projects found in his Ministry’s Budget was meant for Roads and Power!
17. We need to remind Mr. Fashola that the National Assembly is a national institution made up of members from all geo-political zones, they represent all tendencies, interests and ethnic nationalities. It has a responsibility also to ensure balance in the distribution of Road Projects and other developmental facilities. It cannot watch our national patrimony unfairly skewed to one region or a few regions to the detriment of other states and geo-political zones. The proposal from Mr. President on the 2017 Budget of the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing did not pass this test! This partly informed the intervention of National Assembly so that every region can be carried along in project allocation.
18. Finally, we need to restate that the National Assembly leadership entered into certain understandings with the Executive arm on the 2017 Budget in good faith. It is a clear breach of these understandings for the Executive to make public statements calculated to undermine and distort them. Nigerians deserve a total concentration of all government officials, arms of government and MDA’s to grow the economy as we exit the recession. We in the House of Representatives are so passionately committed.