The House of Representatives, rising from its 3-hour executive session, on Wednesday, mandated the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara to interface with the leadership of the executive arm with a view to finding out what exactly are wrong with the 2016 budget as passed and take steps toward addressing them.
The chairman of the House committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas disclosed this at a media briefing to intimate the public with resolutions reached the closed door session of the House.
He said the session became necessary given issues in the media regarding the items in the budget that have caused the public to point accusing fingers at the National Assembly, especially the much talked about Lagos-Calabar rail project which he reiterated was never in the budget proposal submitted to the House.
Namdas said: “Considering the media reports, we have decided this morning in the chamber at our executive session, and in this session the subject matter was the budget”.
“We were fully briefed by the Chairman, appropriation committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin and we agreed as a chamber,to as a House delegate the Speaker to please go ahead and engage the executive to identify the areas of concern and that he should report back to us with the hope that these things are resolved in the National interest and see that this country move forward.
“There are issues in particular, the Calabar-Lagos Rail project that has been in the media, I want to reiterate here for the second time that the project was not among the projects submitted by the President to the National Assembly.
“We are not saying as a House that the Calabar-Lagos rail project is not good, we know it is a viable project. Our own area of concern is that what people say that this thing was in the budget and we removed it. That is why we are making these clarification and again I want to state is clearly; up till now as I speak, there is no communication from the Executive, the President to the National Assembly as I speak about the budget.
“All that we read in the media are other people’s opinions but, Mr. President has not come out clearly to say this and this is my problem with the budget that has been passed because as we were told, this budget has been taken back to Ministries for them to examine and get back to the
President”, he said.
Meanwhile, members of the House have also expressed dissatisfaction over what they termed, “needless controversy” surrounding the 2016 budget.
Speaking to Independent, Hon. Daniel Reyenieju from Delta described the controversy as unfortunate and capable of derailing government from the main purpose for which the budget was prepared.
“I woud say it’s unfortunate to have found ourselves in this budget bruhaha. It wasn’t something that we were actually expecting. But it’s also not unusual to have two arms of government have disagreement over a budget.
“The constitution empowers both arms to take actions on the budget. But in exercising such powers, you must also recognise the rights of one another.
“Both the executive and legislature should very quickly interact and harmonise positions with a view to putting the document to work as soon as possible, because the people are suffering and this budget is neither meant for the executive nor the legislature. It’s meant for the people of this
country who elected all of us,” he said.
Also, the Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Leo Ogor expressed disappointment in the attitude of the executive to engage in blame game over a minor issue that could have been discussed at leadership level instead of adopting a confrontational approach using the media.
“The budget issue for me, shouldn’t have been blown up the way it has by the executive arm. And I wonder what they hope to achieve by this blame game which obviously will not help anybody.
“The issue as far as I’m concerned is very simple. Yes, we agree that the Lagos-Calabar rail project is an important one. I am from the South-south region, but painfully enough, it was not in the budget.
“It was not in the first one, neither was it in the second one that wassent. But be that as it may, it’s an issue that we can seat and discuss in a day or two and it would be resolved without anybody breaking head or apportioning blames.
“And I want to believe that the executive arm knows what to do at this juncture and its not up to me to teach them what to do. But in the event that they are at a loss as to what to do, they can then come to us for consultation and we will show them what steps to take,” Ogor stressed.
On the rumour that some members of the House are acalling for the resignation of the Appropriation committee chairman, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin over alleged unilateral allocation of projects to his constituency, both the House Spokesman and the Minority Leader denied that such was ever discussed at the closed session.
Hon. Jibrin has according to sources been accused of allegedly using his position as the chairman, House Committee on Appropriation to approve projects worth over N4billion to his constituency of Kura/Bebeji in Kano State, North West Nigeria.
However, when he was accosted by journalists to state his side of the story, he declined comment, saying that he was no longer in a position to speak on the budget, and that the House Spokesman will communicate the position of the House concerning the budget.
Right now, the position of the leadership on the allegation cannot be ascertained as the Presidency has not formally communicated areas of irregularities in the document sent to it from the legislature.