The depth of the changes the National Assembly made in the 2017 budget was revealed yesterday by Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola.
The lawmakers slashed N21billion off the N31billion vote for the Lagos –Ibadan Expressway. The contractor is threatening to abandon the project.
Besides, N5billion was taken off the Second Niger Bridge.
The money taken away from these projects is diverted to projects inserted by the lawmakers. These projects are not priorities of the Federal Government, according to Fashola, who spoke in Lagos.
He said: “What I have in my budget now is primary healthcare centres, boreholes.’’
He added: “That was the meeting we had with the Acting President and that was the reason why the budget was not signed on time.
“We were asked to complete those abandoned projects; the budget of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced by the National Assembly from N31 billion to N10 billion.
“We are owing the contractors about N15 billion and they have written to us that they are going to shut down.
“Also, the budget of the 2nd Niger bridge was reduced from N15 billion to N10 billion and about N3 billion or so was removed from the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road budget.’’
According to the minister, “Everybody is complaining about power supply but they also cut the budget for Manbila power project and the Bodo bridge that connects the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Station was also cut and all these were also discussed.”
He asked: “If after we had defended the budget and we had gone and the legislature unilaterally changed the budget, what is the purpose of deliberation?’’
To the former Lagos State Governor, it is unfair to Nigerians after public hearings were conducted with tax payers’ money and consultations with the lawmakers only for the budget to be altered, cut or padded.
The minister said to the 200 uncompleted roads he inherited from the previous administration, the lawmakers added 100.
“These roads are not federal roads and some of them do not have designs; how do we award roads that were not designed irrespective of the power you have?
“It is unconstitutional for the National Assembly to legislate on state roads.
“The executive controls all the machinery for collecting taxes and other revenue with relevant data from the Ministries of Finance, Physical Planning and the Budget Office and others.
“I am not saying that the legislature cannot contribute to the budget, but I hold the view that it cannot increase the budget because they do not collect the revenue with which to run or implement the budget.
“The society benefits more from the power of example and interdependence rather than the example (show) of power; it requires that we show good examples.’’
On the concept of interdependence, Fashola said the President and the Vice-President could not swear themselves into office but by the judicial arm, while the president also proclaims the National Assembly without which it could not start business.
In the same vein, he said the National Assembly confirms ministerial nominees and justices of the courts who are in turn sworn-in by the executive.
He urged the intervention of the judicial arm of government to set the necessary parameters and set things right.
Fashola, however, blamed the electorate for putting pressure on the lawmakers and expecting them to do what was outside their constitutional duties of law-making, representation and oversight.