*Demands Inclusion Of Lagos-Calabar Railway Project In 2016 Budget
The power of the National Assembly to alter projects or totally remove them from the national budget may be put to judicial test and interpretation if the South-South chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) makes good its threat to go court over the issue.
Prince Hilliard Eta, National Vice Chairman (SS) of the APC, in a statement said that the party was not satisfied with the refusal of the National Assembly to include the Lagos-Calabar rail project in the 2016 budget.
The reduction in the allocation made to rehabilitation of the collapsed and Calabar – Odukpani –Itu – Ikot Ekpene federal highway from N6 billion to just N1 billion by the National Assembly, the party said, was uncalled for, and thus, the power of the National Assembly to tamper with the budget would be taken before the court.
The Presidency and the National Assembly have clashed over the project with the president said to have withheld assent to the 2016 budget because of the refusal of the National Assembly to include it in the final document sent to him for his signature.
The two chambers of the parliament have however vowed never to bow to the Presidency’s request insisting that the project was not originally part of the Appropriation Bill submitted to it for passage.
The South-East chapter of the APC has appealed to the National Assembly to reconsider its position on the matter and consider the socio-economic implications of the project on the lives of the people of the entire Southern part of Nigeria.
The South-South chapter of the ruling party, however, expressed disgust with the position of the National Assembly on the budget, saying that lawmakers from the South-South ought not support the decision of the Senate to yank off the project from the 2016 budget.
The group accused the NASS of rubbing the South-South of another project through the reduction of allocations to Calabar – Odukpani –Itu – Ikot Ekpene federal highway repairs which it said had its allocated fund slashed considerably to fund a special project included in the budget to please the Chairman House of Representatives, Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
The statement read In part: We are very upset that our representatives at the National Assembly would discard decorum and hinder progressive change by acting at variance with the infrastructure development agenda of the APC-led Federal Government.
“The arbitrary removal of the Lagos-Calabar rail track by the National Assembly from the 2016 budget is a display of indifference to the welfare of Nigerians. The deletion is not just arbitrary; it is a big disservice to the people of Nigeria, particularly the South South zone which the proposed railway track would have traversed.
“Also, the total rehabilitation of the collapsed and terrible Calabar – Odukpani –Itu – Ikot Ekpene Federal highway which was allotted six billion naira by the Federal Government in the budget was doctored and almost five billion naira removed and reallocated to a non-existent project in the constituency of the Chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, in Kano State.
“By these two acts, the Senate and House of Representatives displayed the astonishing contempt in which they hold Nigerians.
“The National Assembly exists to ensure that Nigerians get the best from their government using the instrument of purposeful legislation but the 8th Assembly by this budget padding debacle has not only brought itself to ridicule, it has also proved itself unworthy of the trust and confidence of Nigerians.
“It is pertinent to at this point conduct a re-examination of the powers of the legislature to establish if really it has the power to doctor and alter projects or totally remove them from the budget even after the minister under whose ministry the said projects fell under had credibly defended them and justified their inclusion.
“As a party in the South South zone, we make public our disenchantment with the National Assembly and we are particularly disappointed by the Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Senator Danjuma Goje and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin who directly supervised and even actively abetted such debauchery.
“The South South zone of the All Progressives Congress demands that the budget be reverted to its original form and all the development projects conceived and included in the budget by the Federal Government be retained without alteration.”
“We also advise the legislature to refrain from giving the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari a bad image by attempting to deprive Nigerians of the dividends of democracy under any guise.
“Lastly, we shall approach the courts of the land for a clear interpretation of the role of the National Assembly in the passing of the National Budget as it is evident that it overstepped its bounds by unnecessarily tinkering with the budget when its constitutional duty is mainly supervisory.
“It is time we Nigerians begin to show a keen interest in the affairs of the legislature as only that can put a stop to the kind of shady alterations that the budget was subjected to while it was being evaluated by the National Assembly,” the party stated.