The controversial minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has been asked to apologise to the national assembly following allegations that the lawmakers removed the Lagos-Calabar rail project whereas it was not included in the budget in the first place.
Both chambers of the national assembly in different statements on Monday blasted the executive for trying to make the lawmakers the fall guys in the budget fiasco.
Reacting to reports in the media credited to the executive arm of government, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, said in a statement that the National Assembly had bent backwards to wring a coherent document out of the excessively flawed and chaotic versions of the budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly. On his part, the House spokesperson, Abdulrazak Namdas, accused Amaechi of trying to pad the budget.
Namdas said there was no project as Lagos-Calabar rail project in the budget proposed by the executive. He said it was Mr. Amaechi who “brought” the project. However, he argued only the president that could propose a project for inclusion in the budget.
“The item was brought for inclusion in the budget by Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, but was not included in the budget because only the president is allowed to present the budget before the National Assembly,” Mr. Namdas said. “We want to state clearly that the budget is something that is proposed by the president; we do not receive budget from minister. So, for somebody to say we actually removed the Calabar-Lagos railway project from the budget, I think someone is trying to spoil our good image.
“We want to state again that all that was sent to the National Assembly from the supplementary budget and others had a smooth sail, and it is on record that some people lost their job because of this budget.”
On his part, the senate spokesman Abdullahi said, “While the executive is mandated to prepare and lay before the National Assembly a proposed budget detailing projects to be executed, it should be made clear that the responsibility and power of appropriation lies with the National Assembly. If the presidency expects us to return the budget proposal to them without any adjustments, then some people must be living in a different era and probably have not come to terms with democracy,” the statement said.
“Since the beginning of the 2016 budget process, it is clear that the National Assembly has suffered all manners of falsehood, deliberate distortion of facts, and outright blackmail, deliberately aimed at poisoning the minds of the people against the institution of the National Assembly.
“We have endured this with equanimity in the overall interest of Nigerians. Even when the original submission was surreptitiously swapped and we ended up having two versions of the budget, which was almost incomprehensible and heavily padded in a manner that betrays lack of coordination and gross incompetence, we refused to play to the gallery and instead helped the Executive to manage the hugely embarrassing situation it has brought upon itself; but enough is enough.”
“This latest antics of this particular minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is reckless, uncalled for and dangerously divisive. Apart from setting the people of the southern part of the country against their northern compatriots, it potentially sets the people against their lawmakers from the concerned constituencies and sets the lawmakers against themselves. This manner of reprehensible mischief has no place in a democracy. We hereby demand from Mr. Amaechi a publicly tendered apology if he is not able to show evidence that the Lagos-Calabar road project was included in the budget. Otherwise, he should resign forthwith.
“Finally, by the provision of Section 81 (4) (a) and (b) of the constitution, the President is allowed to sign the budget and kick-start the implementation of the other areas that constitute over 90 percent of the budget where there is agreement between both arms, even as we engage ourselves to resolve the contentious areas, if there were any. We therefore maintain that even this contrived discrepancies are not sufficient excuse not to sign the budget into law.”
“We therefore urge President Buhari to sign the 2016 budget without any further delay. For every additional day that the president withholds his assent from the bill, the hardship in the land, which is already becoming intolerable for the masses of our people gets even more complicated. Certainly, as primary representatives of the people we shall not vacate our responsibility and watch the people continue to suffer unduly.”