2016 Budget: Executive, NASS Row Over Calabar-Lagos Rail Project
The back and forth arguments between Nigeria’s Executive Arm of Government and the National Assembly over the 2016 budget appear to be intensifying, as the lawmakers insist that the Calabar-Lagos rail project was not included in the 2016 budget.
Nigeria’s 2016 budget is one of the most controversial bill in recent time, with issues of its late submission to reports of it being missing then found, then reports of appropriation being padded.
After several months of debate and scrutiny, the budget was passed by the National Assembly but the Executive Arm of Government seem not satisfied with the final product from the lawmakers.
There have been reports quoting the executive as saying that the budget was distorted, with the removal of certain items and addition of some others that were not initially in the budget.
One of such projects that the executive claims were removed is a rail project that will connect the south-south region and the south-west – Calabar-Lagos rail project.
Countering the widespread reports that the National Assembly removed the project from the 2016 budget, the spokesman for the House of Representatives, Abdulrazak Namdas, told a news conference in Abuja on Monday that a late presentation of the project by the Minister of Transport, Mr Chibuike Amaechi, was out of place.
He pointed out that the President was the only one constitutionally empowered to make budgetary proposals to the parliament.
Also, the Senate spokesman, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, in a strongly worded press statement accused the presidency of setting Nigerians against the National Assembly.
He accused the Minister of Transport of mischief and demanded an apology from the Minister if he was not able to show evidence that the Calabar-Lagos rail project was included in the budget. He also requested that he should reign if he could not present the evidence.
In another development, however, the Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Asahafa, in a statement confirmed that although the Lagos-Calabar rail line project was not in the original document presented to the National Assembly by the executive, the Minister of Transport had later informed the Transport Committee of the omission and sent a supplementary copy of the ministry’s budget to the committee with the inclusion of the Calabar-Lagos rail project.
But the National Assembly apparently did not treat the proposal.
The National Assembly will resume plenary on Tuesday, April 12, and all eyes would be on the parliament to see what its next steps would be on the budget controversy.