From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has said despite a recent face-off with the National Assembly, over his ministry’s 2017 budget, both arms of government meanwell for the country.
Fashola had expressed reservations at the decision of the National Assembly to insert projects outside the purview of his ministry in its budget in the 2017 Appropriation Act.
He also slammed the National Assembly for slashing N21 billion off the N31 billion proposed for the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway.
The minister had described as unfair to the executive arm of government for the National Assembly to include such projects after public hearings on the budget and defence of the fiscal estimates by ministries.
He said funds saved were “diverted” to projects inserted into the 2017 budget by the lawmakers, which were not government’s priorities.
The House of Representatives, in a unanimous vote, resolved to set up an Ad-hoc committee and invite the minister to explain the “breach” of their privilege.
They accused the minister of inciting the people against their representatives.
Fashola told State House Correspondents, yesterday, that efforts are on to reconcile with the National Assembly, in order not to stall other transactions of the executive with the lawmakers.
He said his comments were misconstrued, and added that most of those in the two chambers were his friends and so he couldn’t have been fighting his friends.
“It is perhaps, possible, that in the heat of the moment while trying to canvass different positions, we were misconstrued as fighting but, I am not fighting anybody,” he said.
The minister who spoke on the sidelines of the Presidential Quarterly Business Forum, which held in Abuja, said his disagreement with the parliament was in connection with how best to implement the government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP), which has largely been misconstrued.
“There is no problem between me, as an individual, and the National Assembly. And, let me make that very clear, many of the senators and honourable members are my personal friends, and so you don’t fight your friends.
“But, we have a disagreement. And, the context of that disagreement, you will remember when President Muhammadu Buhari launched the ERGP, he had enormous support from the leadership of the National Assembly. So, it means that we all agree there is a problem. There is also disagreement which I don’t think should make us disagreeable about the best way to implement that plan and I think that is all there is to it.
“We have a disagreement, it shouldn’t make us disagreeable. So my responsibility is to continue to engage.
“Also, even if I wasn’t a minister, I am a citizen also. So, the parliamentarians are also representing me. So, these are the issues and if I have been misunderstood, my intention was not to quarrel with anybody but to see a better Nigerian which I believe they also want to see,” Fashola said.
The minister also dismissed insinuations that the effect of the development may cause a delay in the presentation of virements as well as the 2018 budget to the National Assembly.
“A disagreement yes, a very healthy disagreement. Don’t forget we are not disagreeing on who should head what, who should take what share of the national cake, but we are disagreeing on how to develop Nigeria.
“And for me, that is a very healthy development of our democracy. I’m sure with the leadership of the National Assembly- Senate President, speaker of the House of Representatives, the principal officers and the Acting President, we will resolve this in the ultimate interest of the Nigerian people.”
He said the focus of his ministry was to undertake incremental initiatives with a view to ensure uninterrupted power supply in the country.