12 April 2016
The 2016 budget appears to have heightened following a statement by the Chairman Senate Committee on Land transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, on Monday. He stated that the executive initially included the Lagos-Calabar railway project in the document. His stance on the controversy runs contrary to earlier assertion by the speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and chairman of its appropriation committee, Abdulmunin Jibrin.
The senator stated that the projects were not in the initial budget submitted to the National Assembly but that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, later submitted a corrected copy of the budget to the legislators. While noting that N54 billion was found floating in the budget of the Ministry of Transport, the senator stated that the senate committee had decided to assign funds meant for the Lagos-Calabar project to other projects.
The statement reads that: “I have carefully followed the news items making the rounds in relation to the budget presented to the National Assembly and what was defended by the Ministry of Transport before the Senate Committee on Land Transport which I have the privilege of chairing.”
“The focal points of controversy seem to be the Lagos to Calabar railway modernization projects and the completion of the Idu – Kaduna rail line.
“I confirm that the Lagos to Calabar rail line was not in the original document that was presented to the National Assembly by the Executive. However subsequently at the budget defense session before the Senate Committee on Land Transport, the Hon. Minister for Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, did inform the committee of the omission of the Lagos to Calabar rail modernization project and indeed sent a supplementary copy of the ministry’s budget to the committee which contained the said project.
“The minister noted that the amount needed for the counterpart funding for both the Lagos to Kano and Lagos to Calabar rail modernization projects was in the sum of 120billion Naira, being 60billion Naira per project.
“While the committee did not completely agree with all the changes made in the subsequent document, being fully aware of the critical importance of the rail sector to the development of our dear country, distinguished members of the Senate Committee on Land transport keyed into the laudable (Lagos to Calabar, rail modernisation) project and found ways of appropriating funds for the project without exceeding the envelope provided for the ministry.”