2017 budget: Senate accuses Fashola of favouring S’West
The senate has accused the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) of making provisions for Lagos State and South West at the detriment of other geopolitical zones of the country in the 2017 budget.
The lawmakers’ submission followed a statement credited to Fashola, saying that the National Assembly padded the 2017 budget.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate noted that Fashola did not disclose the full details about the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which according to him, had been funded through a private finance initiative, revealing that the Ministry had continued to award contracts and fund the project through government budgetary allocations at a time when the nation’s revenue was on a dwindling trend.
According to Abdullahi, the Bureau of Public Procurement, and the Federal Executive Council had in 2013 approved the reconstruction, rehabilitation and expansion of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway through a Public Private Partnership initiative, with the Federal Government providing about 30 percent of the funding, while the balance was to be provided by the private sector.
He, however, accused the minister of blatant disregard for existing agreements, constituted authorities and extant laws by voting money for the implementation of the project. His words: “Even as at last year, the 2016 Appropriation Act voted N40 billion for the project on the insistence of the Ministry and only N26 billion was released. If we had known, the rest N14 billion could have been allocated to other critical roads across the country.”
He further explained: “In the spirit of consensus building and effective stakeholder engagement, the leadership of the Senate met with key relevant stakeholders, including the Ministries of Works and finance. It was agreed that we should give the Private Finance Initiative a chance to complement government’s resources in the delivery of critical infrastructure assets across the country. Hence, in this year’s budget, we have engaged with the government and private sector groups who have assured that they will resume funding of the project. So, we only provided the fund in the budget that would ensure work does not stop before the funds from the private sector start coming in. What we reduced from Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in the 2017 budget estimate was spread on Oyo-Ogbomoso road in the South-west, Enugu-Onitsha road in the South-east, and two other critical roads in the North-east and North-west; and this was done to achieve equity. The Minister should realise that he is Minister for the entire country and not just that of Lagos State.”
“Just going by the last two years of funding where an average of about N30b per annum was released, the nation would have to wait for the next six years for completion of the work. But with private sector finance initiative, this project can be completed on time because full funding will be provided and there will be more certainty”, he stated.
Abdullahi maintained that since government did not have enough money and/or unlimited resources to provide all the needed road infrastructure on a sustainable basis, the use of funds from the private sector to complement government’s resources would ease pressure on the annual budgetary provisions for infrastructure provision, as more money would be spent on less commercially viable roads that would not ordinarily attract private sector investment as well as other social services like education, health and human capital development.
While shedding more light on the highlights of the budget, he noted that when Fashola accused the National Assembly of importing projects into the 2017 budget, he did not mention that these included the 26 projects which the Federal Government had approved in the 2016 budget, awarded contract for them in January 2016, but were totally omitted in the 2017 budget. On this note, he cited the Abuja-Kaduna road as one of the projects, saying “These ones would have become abandoned projects. We reduced funds across board to make provision for these omitted projects that are of critical importance to the socio-economic development of the country in line with equity and fair play.”
“The Minister’s statement is in bad taste and we believe he has been quoted out of context as an experienced public servant with over 15 years of high level responsibility. He should desist from spreading half-truths,” Abdullahi warned.