Why we reduced budgetary allocation for second Niger Bridge, other projects, NASS explains

THE National Assembly has explained why it reduced the budgetary allocations to some infrastructure projects in the 2018 Appropriation Bill recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, spokesperson for the Senate, and Abdulrazak Namdas, spokesperson for the House of Representatives, addressing a joint conference on Friday, said the justification for their actions were based on their constitutional responsibilities.

They further said that, contrary to Buhari’s claims, the amount deducted from the various projects itemised by the President will not affect their progress within the present fiscal year.

“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 ,” they explained.

““Within the context of the provisions of Sections 4, 80 and 81 of the Constitution, everything that the National Assembly has done is within its powers.

“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.”

The lawmakers also said that Buhari’s account of the budget process was “unduly exaggerated” as the reductions made to some of the allocations were insignificant and would not affect the implementation of the projects.

“Addressing the issue of the Second Niger Bridge project, apart from early works, as of today, there is no existing contract for the Second Niger Bridge in spite of frequent requests from the National Assembly.

“The N900 million reduced from the N10 billion proposed by the Executive was deployed to fund ancillary roads that connect to the Bridge.

“It should again be noted that the N12.5 billion and the N7.5 billion appropriated for the Second Niger Bridge in the 2016 and 2017 budget by the National Assembly were never utilized for the project.

“We also need to call the attention of the public to the fact that the National Assembly allocated an additional N2 billion to the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway project. This was more than the Executive proposed.”

    President Buhari also accused the lawmakers of cutting budgetary allocations to the health sector, but, again, Abdullahi and Namadas said this is not the real situation.

    “On the provisions for strategic interventions in the health sector which were said to be cut by an aggregate of N7.45 billion, it is on record that for the first time since the National Health Act was enacted in 2014, the National Assembly made provision of an additional N55 billion for funding primary healthcare through the Basic Primary Healthcare Fund which will be sourced from 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

    “Thus, contrary to the claim that the health sector suffered any budgetary cuts, we actually provided more funds that will make access to health services possible for over 180 million Nigerians,” the legislators explained.

    “It is our firm belief that if the President had been properly briefed by his appointees, he would not have raised most of the concerns that he did in his remarks at the budget signing.

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