By Tordue Salem, Abuja

The House of Representatives on Tuesday assured that they will ensure that the N11 billion voted for road projects in the 2021 budget as proposed by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) is evenly distributed to all the six geopolitical zones.

Rep. Yusuf Gagdi who queried the controversial increase in the FERMA’s budget, gave the update on the Committee’s position, while he reacted to allegations that the proposal was ‘hurriedly considered ’without taking members’ input, as raised by Rep. Bamidele Salam (PDP-Osun).

While noting that the issue of N11 billion allegedly inserted into the FERMA budget proposal was addressed during the budget defence, Hon. Gagdi maintained that the Committee will stop at nothing to ensure the projects spread across all the six geopolitical zones if at all it would be adopted into the 2021 Appropriation Act.

Also read:2021 Budget Defence: Every Governor got COVID-19 palliatives from FG ― Humanitarian Affairs Minister

“Every member believed that, yes we agreed and we have not passed the budget. There was an envelope that was given to FERMA by Ministry of Finance through the Ministry of Works, which is the supervising ministry of FERMA and I came to discover that the project was increased not by the National Assembly. Normally Ministry of Finance has enveloped budget because we operate envelope budget so I was aware of the fact that the envelope that was given to FERMA was not up to 30 billion, it was 20 something billion.

“And all of a sudden, I just discovered that they have submitted from the Ministry of Finance to the National Assembly over 30 something billion with an increment of about 11 billion. I raised that issue and I still stand on my feet that no how did you increase it? It is even the right of the budget office to submit whatever they want to submit to the National Assembly I won’t even call it padding because they have increased the money beyond the envelope of their Ministry.

“But my argument is this, where will you increase about 11 billion to one state? It is not possible. Then the committee on FERMA agreed that the purpose of the elective representative is to ensure equity and fairness to all the geopolitical entities. We now say you have brought this budget, that it is once sided. If you look at my comment very
well, I tackle the fact that the budget is not balanced. So we must balance the budget as the people that have the right to do it in such a way that it resembles the interest of Nigerians. So my position on the 11 billion still stands that from somewhere between the Ministry of Works and Ministry of Finance, 11 billion was increased at an inter-ministerial level in the budget of FERMA. And I still stand by it”, he said.

According to him, “I will give you the document, you will see it clearly. The predominant state that got that 11 billion that was
increased it is Imo State without any fear of political contradictions but I don’t know who increased it”.

Speaking earlier after the budget defence session, Mr. Salam observed that “there was an attempt to rush the passage of
the budget and prevent those of us who had observations from doing so.

“Immediately the FERMA MD presented the budget, a colleague was raising a motion for the adoption of the budget and I raised a point of order. By parliamentary procedure, a point of order should take precedence over every other matter. In the attempt to make my point of order, I saw that the person who moved the motion was behaving like the spokesperson for FERMA.

“The observation that I made was very simple: first is the fact that in the 2021 budget proposal analysis that I have before me, out of the 420 projects proposed, the South-West zone which I am from has the least allocation which is 48, and least allocation which is about N3 billion. That is just a part of it.

“The larger part of it is that the constituency that I represent, Ede-North/Ede-South/Egbedore/Ejigbo Federal Constituency, does not have a single allocation of a project out of the 420 projects. Even the whole of the state where I come from, Osun State, which is represented by nine members in the House, does not have a single projected allocated to it, out of a budget of N38.2bn proposed by FERMA.

“I felt I should at least have a right of the audience but, unfortunately, the person who was preventing that from happening is from Plateau State and I can see in this same budget, Plateau is getting about 18 projects. Why should he not want someone who does not have anything in his own state to raise a point of order and make this observation? This is unfair, unjust and against the spirit of the Nigerian Constitution.

“That was the point I was trying to make before he came up and the whole session came into a rowdy conclusion.”

Salam said further that, “No. Certainly not, because if the budget would be passed, we would have to vote on the motion that was purportedly moved by him. But like I said, it ended up a rowdy session.”

The lawmaker added, that “The National Assembly should be tired of being called a rubber stamp Assembly. We are not; we are it supposed to be. If a ministry, department or agency brings in a document, we should subject that document to thorough scrutiny.

“We should scrutinise it with the eye of the law, and equity, fairness and justice. That is what the parliament should do but that is what some people are trying to resist, from what happened at this meeting. I think we should go back to look at this document and ask ourselves honestly: does this budget proposal by FERMA reflect the spirit of the Nigerian Constitution and the budget which is supposed to bring even development to all parts of the country?

“To me, the answer is no. And if the answer is no, then we should go back to the drawing board. It is still a proposal; it is a bill before the National Assembly, which is subject to being tinkered with. I am expecting that the committee, under the chairmanship of Hon. Bamisile will reconvene and address the concerns that I expressed.”

While reacting to the question on the rowdy session between members of the Committee during the FERMA budget defence, Chairman, House Committee on FERMA, Rep. Femi Bamisile who dismissed the allegations bothering on the unfavourable allocation of road projects to the South West and Osun State, raised by Salam, explained that the Committee has resolved to re-invite the FERMA Managing Director, Engr. Nuruddeen Rafindadi on various issues raised by members.

“We needed to study the budget before we pass it. I have told them this. This is the same thing that we said last year. You cannot bring us the budget the same day of passage. These documents are voluminous. Sometimes, they go as high as 70 or 80 pages. Do you expect a member to be reading 80 pages as they pass it?

“They will take time to do that and that was why we asked them to come back today and when they came, everybody has had time to study the document and questions were asked. There was an issue there when one of our members was raising a point of order that his state did not have enough projects.

“I made it clear to him that if you have read the budget, you will see your state represented. I can tell you what each state has. I told the member the number of projects in his state. Unfortunately, he didn’t see it there. Even after I have made my ruling, I still allowed him to move his motion and I made it clear to him that every state was carried along.

“On Thursday, there was this notion that N11 billion was thrown into the budget. But after studying it for 72 hours, everybody, including those who moved the motion was convinced that all was well with the budget”, he said.

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