Ndubuisi Orji And Fred Itua, Abuja
The National Assembly yesterday tackled President Muhammadu Buhari over his comments on the 2018 Appropriation Act, stating that whatever alteration it made to the budget was in line with its constitutional powers and in the interest of the country.
Speaking at joint press conference addressed by the Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi and his House of Representatives counterpart, Hon Abdulrasak Namdas, the Senate spokesman said figures bandied by President Buhari on the budget were incorrect.
President Buhari at the signing of the 2018 Budget earlier in the week had declared that the National Assembly, altered the budget estimates by reducing funding for some key projects, as well as, including new projects in the Appropriation Act, thereby making the implementation of the budget difficult.
However, Abdullahi said the adjustments made to budget estimates presented by the Executive in terms of locations, cost and number of projects approved were done so as to address geo-political imbalances that came with the estimates, stating that the inclusion of new project in the 2018 budget was done do ensure adherence to the principles of Federal Character as contained in Section 14, subsection (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Besides, he said the figures given by the Presidency as deductions made by the National Assembly were unduly exaggerated, as the parliament didn’t make any substantial reduction on any project to the extent of affecting its implementation.
On the delay in the passage of the budget, which was presented to a joint session of National Assembly by President Buhari last November, the lawmaker said, “It is necessary to remind Nigerians that although the budget was submitted in November, as at March 15th 2018 (five months and eight days after the budget submission), Mr. President was still directing the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to compel the Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government to appear before the committees of the National Assembly to defend their respective budget.
“In addition, up till April (six months after the budget submission), the Executive was still bringing new additions to the 2018 budget, which the National Assembly in good faith and in the spirit of collaboration and harmonious working relationship accepted.”
He added: “It was stated that the legislature made cuts amounting to N347 billion, which were meant for 4,700 projects. Again, these reductions of N347 billion were made from low priority areas to higher priority areas to support the generation of employment for our youths by MSMEs.
“We took the decision to reduce the funds in some areas in order to ensure balance and equity in the spread and utilization of our national funds.”
Furthermore, Abdullah stated :”To give the exact detail of the projects where we made deductions, it should be noted that the counterpart funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/Ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Express Road and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project, was reduced by only N3,956,400,290 – which represents only 1.78% of the total N222,569,335,924 submitted by President Buhari.
“This left these projects with N218, 612, 935, 634 that cannot negatively affect their implementation. This obviously contradicts the claim that these projects lost “an aggregate of N11.5 billion.”