WHEN it comes to choices among lives, literacy and roads, the Senate, Nigeriaâ€™s highest law-making body, chose roads. Its decision to move N25 billion from the budget for education and health services to the expansion of the Abuja Airport and Zuba-Abuja expressways to 10 lanes from four lanes speaks volumes.
There are no justifications for this decision. The Federal Capital Territory, FCT, is not a stellar example in health and educational services. Its showpiece hospitals and schools are in the city and serve only the same elite who can afford to meet their needs abroad.
Senators moved billions of Naira that would have improved the lives of ordinary people. These Senators live in Abuja, but they live above the realities of the FCT, its poverty, bad schools and the miserable health services in the rural settlements.
Abubakar Sodangi, Chairman of the Senate Committee on FCT began the waffle.
Funds for the two sectors, he said, could not be expended before the year ends Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Ahmed Lawani: â€œWhile supporting this, I want to make some observations. Education and Health services are very basic and essential and cannot wait. I think we can afford to take monies from other sectors but taking money from Education and Health is not good enoughâ€.
Senator James Manager (Delta State):Â â€œThere is already N6 billion provided in the 2009 Budget for the road projects. How much of the N6 billion have been used for down payment that you need additional N25 billion. I donâ€™t think it is wise to remove money from Education and Healthâ€.
Senator Lee Maeba (Rivers State):Â â€œThis virement has a lot of controversial components. What is the contract sum, what is the duration of the projects?â€
The Senate Deputy Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba: â€œI am lost, if you look at the areas where the money is being taking from, the report does not show whether what is left for those sectors would be enough for their projects and programmes for the remaining part of this year.
I believe some projects are too critical. We cannot take money from Education and Health. Our masses come first. It is only a living being that can use the dualised roadsâ€.
President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua sought the Senateâ€™s approval to move N25.97 billion from some sub-heads under the FCTâ€™s 2009 budget.
The Senate Committee on Appropriation approved N25.97 billion, which its Chairman, Chief Iyiola Omisore, said was drawn from funds FCT previously set aside for some departments and agencies.
How would the dualisation of these expressways help the poor in the FCT benefit from the Millennium Development Goals? Does the Presidentâ€™s action reflect his seven-point agenda?
The Senate acted inappropriately in approving a budget it roundly condemned. What hurts FCT residents does not affect Senators. The expressways would get the rich and mighty to the airport quickly.
It matters that it would be at the expense of the poorâ€™s life and future.