The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has said the N17 billion slashed by the National Assembly in the 2017 budget proposal of Mambilla hydropower project was the federal government’s counterpart funding ahead of the Chinese loan for the project.
In a statement by his spokesman, Hakeem Bello, Fashola urged federal lawmakers to desist from trading accusations but work to resolve budgetary issues for the development of the country.
He listed the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Bodo-Bonny road, the Kano-Maiduguri road, the Second Niger Bridge and the Mambilla Hydropower Project as those that the National Assembly altered their allocations in favour of boreholes and primary health care centres “which were never discussed during the Ministerial Budget Defence before Parliament.”
The minister said the Mambilla Power Project was slashed because it contained a “whooping N17bn” for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). He noted that “there was indeed a mis-description of that particular expenditure head which could have happened during the classification of so many thousands of budget heads in the budget estimates.”
Fashola however explained that the budget head for EIA was actually the nation’s counterpart funding to the China-EXIM loan to fund the project. He added that the error was only pointed out after the allocation has been slashed and that “if the intention was not to slash arbitrarily it should have been brought to his attention to explain.”
For the Second Niger Bridge, whose 2016 allocation the lawmakers said was not spent and had to be returned, the minister said, the Ministry of Finance had not yet released any cash for the 2nd Niger Bridge and that no money was returned.
Fashola added that the continuation of early works could not start in May, 2016, when the budget was passed because of high water level in the River Niger.