Lagos-Calabar Rail Project: Ministry Of Budget Clarifies 2016 Budget

2016 BudgetThe Ministry of Budget And Planning has come out with its position on the controversies surrounding the 2016 budget.

The ministry in a statement said the President is yet to take a position on the budget after receiving the budget details from the National Assembly on April 7.

On the controversial Calabar-Lagos rail project, the ministry confirmed that there were indeed some errors in the initial budget proposal sent to the National Assembly by the President in December.

The statement, however, added that the errors were corrected, submitted and subsequently accepted by the relevant committees of the National Assembly.

The statement read in part, “It must be emphasized that the two rail projects are part of those for which the President is currently negotiating funding with the Chinese government.

“The 60billion Naira provided in the budget for the Lagos – Kano and Calabar – Lagos rail lines, respectively, is counterpart funding, to support the Chinese financing for the projects.

“These projects are part of the strategic implementation plan of the government which was disclosed by the Minister of Budget and National Planning at The National Economic Council retreat in March 2016, in the presence of state governors.”

The statement added that it was the corrected version that was defended by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and his team.

Mischief

It has been a tug of war between the executive and the legislature over the 2016 budget, as the National Assembly insists that the Lagos-Calabar rail project was excluded from the budget.

At a news conference in Abuja, spokesman of the House of Representatives, Abdulrazak Namdas, insisted that there was no project as to Lagos-Calabar rail in the 2016 appropriation bill presented by President Buhari to the National Assembly.

He criticised the late presentation of the project by Minister of Transport, Mr Chibuike Amaechi.

Also, in a strongly worded press statement, the spokesperson of the Senate, accused the Presidency of setting Nigerians against the National Assembly.

He accused the Minister of Transport of mischief and demanded an apology from him if he is not able to show evidence that the Lagos-Calabar rail project was included in the budget, otherwise he should resign forthwith.

In another development, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, confirmed that although the Lagos-Calabar rail project was not in the original document presented to the National Assembly by the executive, the Minister of Transport later informed the Transport Committee of the omission and sent a complimentary copy of the Ministry’s budget to the committee with the inclusion of the Lagos-Calabar rail project.

2016 Budget: Executive, NASS Row Over Calabar-Lagos Rail Project

Railway-NigeriaThe 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.

Economist Points Out Real Issues In Nigeria’s 2016 Budget

Bismarck-RewaneAn economist, Bismarck Rewane, has identified real issues in the 2016 budget that Nigerians and the parliamentarians must focus on and address in good time.

Mr Rewane stressed the need for the lawmakers to accelerate the budget debate and passage to stimulate the Nigerian economy, saying that there was “no time to be wasted playing around with the budget document”.

He made the comments on Wednesday while giving his opinion on the budget debate and shift of the time of passage by the National Assembly.

“Nigerians and the parliamentarians must understand the difference between what is important and what is urgent.

“There is no pure budget document.

“Approve those things that you are comfortable with and the things that you are not comfortable with, throw them back to the ministries to do what they have to do. We cannot afford to wait.

“You have to stimulate this economy into growth,” the economist stressed.

He agreed that some of the details of the budget could be frivolous, but emphasised that the real issues should be the focus of the government.

“The debate at this time should be; is $38 a reasonable and realistic oil benchmark? Is it possible that we can produce 2.2 million barrels of oil per day when our quota is 1.7 and our actual production is 1.8 million? That is almost a 20 per cent deviation from the estimate.

“Is the deficit going to be 2.2 trillion Naira when the price of oil has dropped and our revenue has dropped by 30 per cent? How are we going to fill the gap? Are we going to borrow? If we are going to borrow almost 2.3 trillion, where is the shortfall going to come from? These are the things we should be talking about,” Mr Rewane questioned, pointing out the contentious areas in the budget.

The spokesman for the House of Representatives, Abdulrazak Namdas, said that the National Assembly would do its best to ensure that the budget that would be passed would be acceptable to all Nigerians.

He said that timing was not much an issue, explaining that the National Assembly had amended the appropriation of 2015 for the capital expenditure to run till March 31, 2015.

“Even if this budget is passed on 25 February, it will not take effect until first of April. I think we still have time on our hands and we are going to work on that very well.

“On Friday, the session with MDAs [Ministries Department and Agencies] will end and committees will start to meet with the appropriation committee and see how this thing will work,” the lawmaker stated.

He said that the parliament had decided to amend the timing and extend it to March 31 in view of the time that the 2015 appropriation would elapse.