20180621

National Assembly Replies Buhari Over Their New 6,403 Projects: "We're Not Rubber Stamp"

President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented that the 2018 Appropriation Bill which he signed into law would be difficult, if not impossible, to implement because of the alterations members of the National Assembly effected on the document he submitted to them on November 7, 2017.

He accused them of increasing the National Assembly budget from N125bn to N139.5bn.

The President also accused them of injecting 6,403 projects of their own totalling N578bn into the budget.

The lawmakers made cuts amounting to N347bn in the allocations to 4,700 projects as submitted to them.

Buhari spoke shortly after signing the document into law in his office at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The President noted that many of the projects cut were critical and might be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation.

He regretted that some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly had not been properly conceptualised, designed and cost and would therefore be difficult to execute.

Buhari said, “As it is, some of these projects (inserted in the budget by the Senate and Reps) relate to matters that are the responsibility of the states and local governments, and for which the Federal Government should therefore not be unduly burdened.”

Buhari cited examples of projects from which cuts were made to include the provisions for some nationally/regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as counterpart funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project which he said were cut by an aggregate of N11.5bn.

Similarly, the President said provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in Abuja, especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project were cut by a total of N7.5bn.

Mr President said he planned to seek remedy by preparing a supplementary or amendment budget.

We’re not worried about Buhari’s observations –N’Assembly 
However, the two chambers of the National Assembly on Wednesday reacted to the concerns raised by President Buhari on the alterations made on the 2018 Appropriation Bill, saying the federal lawmakers did what they were supposed to do.

The Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah; and the Chief Whip of the House of Reps, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, stated this in separate interviews with State House correspondents after joining Buhari during the signing of the budget at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, were absent from the brief ceremony.

Na’Allah said the lawmakers were not worried about the concerns raised by the President because their job was a difficult one.

He said, “No, we are not worried. The job of parliamentarians is a very difficult one. The way the budget came, if we had allowed it to go that way, we would have been in trouble with those who elected us.

“You have to balance between the six geopolitical zones. It is the balancing efforts by the National Assembly that led to those observations and happily enough, he himself has said he is coming with a supplementary budget which will be dealt with as quickly as possible. I assure you about that one.”

Na’Allah said the process of approving supplementary budgets was short since it would be built on what has already been done by the National Assembly.

Although he agreed that Buhari was right on his observation on the delay in passing the budget, the senator said the federal lawmakers should not be blamed.

“About the issue of delay, the President is right, but at the same time, if you remember, you were here, the President had to order some MDAs to appear before the National Assembly for the purpose of defending their budgets.

“It is a very delicate issue. If somebody said he wants N500m for the maintenance of bridges nationwide, then you expect the National Assembly to say ok, that budget is approved because it came from the executive, then we have not done our work.

“We will be interested in knowing which of the roads are you going to maintain so that again, we don’t give another allocation in the next budget.

“Those observations are correct, but in the budgeting process, those things are normal.”

On it's part, the House of Reps say they are not a rubber stand expected to just simply approve what the Presidency sent to them as a budget proposal.