Fg Defends Amaechi, Insists Lagos-calabar Project Was Captured In Budget
SAN FRANCISCO, April 12, (THEWILL) – The back and forth between the Executive and the National Assembly over the 2016 Appropriation Bill continued on Tuesday with the federal government insisting that the Lagos-Calabar railway project was duly submitted and accepted by the National Assembly for approval.
This is coming the same day that the Senate expressed readiness to honour President Muhammadu Buhari's wish for the inclusion of railway project, which was left out of the original budget and has been the subject of controversy since the weekend.
The upper chamber through its spokesman, Senator Abdullahi Sabi, noted that the way forward after the rail project controversy is for the executive to submit a supplementary budget, which would contain the now controversial Lagos-Calabar railway project.
“That the Lagos-Calabar project was not in the budget does not undermine its importance. The national assembly is open; whenever the executive brings the supplementary budget regarding the project, it will be honoured,” the lawmaker said.
But a statement by the Media Adviser to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Mr. James Akpandem maintained that the relevant committees of the parliament received the document, noting that both the Lagos – Kano and the Calabar – Lagos are very important projects of the Buhari administration which had intended to have both projects reflected in the budget submitted to the National Assembly.
According to the statement, “In view of the recent controversies surrounding the 2016 budget, it has become necessary to state the following so as to set the facts straight: The details of the 2016 budget were received by the President on Thursday, April 7, 2016.
“Immediately this was received the President, desirous of signing the document into law as soon as possible, directed that copies should be made available to Heads of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government. Ministers were asked to go through the details and give their reactions as it affects their respective Ministries so as to guide the President and enable him sign the Appropriation Bill into law.
“That process is still on-going and no statement has been issued by the Executive on the matter, apart from the one by the Honourable Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohamnmed, to confirm that details of the budget are being examined. No final decision has been taken by the President and no other statement whatsoever has been issued on the matter.
“With reference to the specific issue of the Calabar – Lagos rail project, we will like to state that the two railway projects, Lagos – Kano and the Calabar – Lagos, are very important projects of the present administration; and it was always the intention of the Executive to have both projects reflected in the budget submitted to the National Assembly.
“However, it will be recalled that the Budget Office made a number of errors in the initial proposals of a number of ministries. These errors were all corrected by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the corrected versions were submitted to the relevant committees of the National Assembly. This included that of the Ministry of Transportation.
“The amended Ministry of Transportation budget was accepted by the relevant committees and that was the version defended by the Minister of Transportation and his team. “It must be emphasized that the two rail projects are part of those for which the President is currently negotiating funding with the Chinese government.
“The N60b provided in the budget for the Lagos – Kano and Calabar – Lagos rail lines, respectively, is counterpart funding, to support the Chinese financing for the projects. “These projects are part of the Strategic Implementation Plan of the government which was disclosed by the Minister of Budget and National Planning at the National Economic Council Retreat in March 2016, in the presence of state governors. They were also mentioned by the Vice President last week in Lagos at The Nation Newspaper's First National Economic Forum.
“It is hoped that with this clarification, the raging controversy over the Calabar – Lagos rail project will be put to rest.”