The reign of confusion that has bedevilled the 2016 Appropriation Bill continues to reverberate with the allegation that the two chambers of the National Assembly distorted the infrastructure development agenda of the Federal Government before forwarding the Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.
Media reports have it that the Appropriation Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives headed by Senator Danjuma Goje and Hon Abdulmunin Jibrin respectively, altered allocations to key areas and reallocated them to projects located mostly in the Northern parts of the country.
Worthy of particular note was the alleged arbitrary “cancellation” of the Lagos-Calabar railway project and the diversion of funds allocated for it. The project is billed to cost 80 billion naira. The Federal Government reportedly allocated N60 billion in the controversial budget as a counterpart fund which the government of China will complement with N20 billion to ensure its speedy realisation. President Buhari’s current trip to China is aimed at securing a loan to finance this and other capital projects.
While Presidency sources claimed that government had to return the budget to the National Assembly because these alterations would derail its core development agenda, Hon Jibrin insisted that the Lagos-Calabar railway line project was never included in the budget that Buhari submitted to the National Assembly in the first place. He, however, argued that the Federal Legislature had the right to appropriate funds under the constitution and that his constituency was also part of Nigeria and had the right to benefit from the development programmes of government.
We do not dispute the fact that the Legislature is vested with the power to appropriate public fund and supervise its expenditure. This is expressly reflected in Sections 80 to 84 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. We, however, hasten to caution that these powers must be applied without prejudicing the constitutional rights of the Executive to provide good governance in line with the campaign promises of the party in power.
We condemn in strong terms, any efforts by politicians from any section to hijack funds meant for the even development of the country to gratify their home region.
We also, most importantly, call for the immediate restoration of the Lagos-Calabar Railway project in the 2016 budget and its speedy implementation. This and other projects lined up in the budget presented by President Buhari will go a long way in massively providing jobs, diversifying the economy and linking up centres of commerce in the South for national prosperity and integration.
We urge the President to pursue this and all other laudable provisions in the budget to their logical conclusion and assure him that Nigerians are eager for his success.