By Emman Ovuakporie
Unarguably the most popular of the presiding officers of the House of Representatives so far, Speaker Aminu Tambuwal is, however, increasingly faced with the devil’s option in navigating the turbulence arising from the crisis in his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and increasing muttering over alleged poor implementation of the 2013 budget.
It was clear before the present crisis facing the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP that Speaker Aminu Tambuwal had steered the House out of many troubled waters.
He had along the way also garnered the support of the majority of the members of the House. But from all indications, this support may experience a little turbulence if the face-off between the two factions of the party that emerged after the convention is not resolved.
Speaker Tambuwal it was learnt is pitched between the contending sides in the increasingly messy intra party dispute that has put many in the mainstream of the ruling party on edge.
Until now, the two contending sides have on the surface sought to portray Tambuwal as a unifying force and a neutral person in the conflict.
However, as the 2015 elections draw closer, members are increasingly being put under pressure to identify with their local patrons and kingmakers at home who may decide their post-2015 political fortunes.
Under the present configuration, the new PDP by combining forces with the opposition parties in the House is believed to have an edge in the power equation. That would be good news for Tambuwal who as it is generally known has not been a darling of the mainstream PDP led by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
Another challenge before the speaker would be how he manages the flow of emotions arising from the recent oversight visits to the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs during which implementation of the 2013 budget was assessed.
That would be a parameter for handling the 2014 budget. Various committees that went on oversight came back with what some have labelled satanic reports that question the implementation of the 2013 budget. The oversight carried out by most of the committees showed poor releases of funds to the MDAs.
Many members who went on oversight it was learnt, argued that the implementation of the 2013 budget is unacceptable with lamentations about late releases of funds for capital projects of the 2013 budget. In some cases, approvals were made but not cash backed, while in other cases, it was claimed that the funds were released but they were inaccessible.
The Chairman House Committee on Information and Communications Technology, Hon Shehu Gusau, APC, Zamfara after inspecting facilities at the Federal Ministry of Communications vowed that his committee would investigate the Minister of Finance and the Budget Office over poor release of funds to some MDAs for the implementation of the 2013 budget.
Gusau had said the committee was appalled that the ministry whose approved budget for capital projects for the 2013 fiscal year was over N2 billion only received about N727 million with less than three months for the year to run out.
“We’re not impressed at all. This is October, but only 28.05 percent of your approved budget has been released. What happens to the 72 percent now that it is less than three months to December, and you must refund unspent funds by December 31?”
Other members of the committee also raised concerns with the way the ministry’s budget releases have been handled and assured of their resolve “to get to the bottom of the matter.”
House Committee on Upstream petroleum Resources:
Same story of poor implementation of the 2013 budget was also re-echoed during an oversight visit to Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the committee. The chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Hon. Muraina Ajibola, had while scrutinising the 2013 budget performance of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) observed that the delay of funds was unnecessary,.
Reacting to the ugly situation, Ajibola noted that “as a parliament, we are worried because we are not only tracking money released and revenue generated, we are worried on the releases of money to fund the budget. We are calling on the appropriate quarters to ensure that releases are done as at when due.”
Committee on Federal Capital Territory:
Chairman of the House of Representatives committee on FCT, Hon Emmanuel Jime also decried the poor performance of the 2013 budget in the territory so far. Jime (PDP, Benue) who stated this after his committee took its oversight to examine the level of implementation of the 2013 capital budget at the Karshi Satellite Town Infrastructure project, regretted the non-release of funds to the contractor handling the project to commence work.
“From what we saw, it is obvious that the performance is zero. In fact, no money has been released yet to the contractor to start work, and we’re now in the third quarter with about three months left for the year to run out.
“That is what we have been saying in the House of Representatives, that the greatest problem facing us as a nation is that budget performance is never taken seriously. And the House is always accused of ulterior motive whenever we stress that budget should be implemented as specified in the Act”.
Other members of the committee also expressed concern over the situation, saying the project should not have been awarded in the first place if money was not available.
A member of the committee, Hon Jerry Manwe (PDP, Taraba), pointed out that awarding contract without fund often result in upward reviewing which does not augur well for government. But director of Satellite Town Development Agency, FCDA, Engr. Ibrahim Tukur, told the Committee that the Karshi Water project was awarded at the sum of N19.4 billion, informing that the sum of N2 billion was about to be released.
The reports of these committees point to the fact that the N4.6trillion budget passed by the National Assembly may still face a lot of scrutiny as members resume after the Sallah festivities.
This scrutiny if not properly managed by Tambuwal and his men may lead to another showdown between the executive arm of government and the legislature. Tambuwal may have to watch his back at all times to save his neck from being strangulated as the cracks in the House goes beyond the ordinary.
The legislature may win more Nigerians to its side if the cracks are properly amended by Tambuwal and the House leadership.