11 April 2016
The controversy surrounding the 2016 appropriation bill took a new dimension over the weekend as sources within the presidency claimed that the President has refused to sign the budget before he left for China because of some uncertainties and errors in the final document transmitted from the National Assembly.
On Saturday, reports quoting anonymous Presidency sources said President Muhammadu Buhari proposed a 60 billion naira Lagos-Calabar rail project in the budget but was expunged from the budget by the National Assembly.
The 2016 budget was transmitted to the Presidency last week and was received on behalf of the President by the Chief of staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari.
Reacting to the claim, The Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara described the reports as “barefaced lies”. In several tweets through the handle of the Speaker. The Speaker’s twitter handle @speakerdogara described the presidential source as false; “nothing like presidency involved here. It’s a shameless falsehood meant to stir hatred. It’s most despicable”
The Speaker continued, “barefaced lies. Where is the evidence of provision of N60bn for Coastal Rail Line in the budget estimate?
“The relevant question to ask is, was it provided for in the Budget Estimate sent to NASS?”
Querying the source of the reports, he said “who in the Presidency said so? The Presidential Spokesperson or Minister of Information? Name the source.”
He continued, “I guess from beer parlours as any reasonable man claiming so would have given the evidence.
“Absolute rubbish. They are smart enough to demand evidence. Let them publish if they have any.”
Similarly, the chairman House Committee on Appropriations, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin corroborated Mr. Dogara’s position. Speaking on a Live TV Program this morning, Hon. Jibrin stated that he was shocked by claims that Lagos-Calabar Rail project was removed from the budget. He stated that the project was not included in the submission that came to the National Assembly neither was it included in the report of the committee.
“We do not have the Calabar-Lagos rail Project in any documents submitted to the National Assembly. The National Assembly cannot remove what is not there”
He described the report as an attempt by some people to set Nigerians in collision with one another. He further stated that the National Assembly helped the executive to correct the budget and address the confusion created by the document which he attributed to the fact that it was prepared by a task force.
“I do not believe that the executive arm of government really understand the document they sent to the National Assembly or they have even properly studied the document we sent back to them.
“In the first place you saw all the confusion, from the point of preparing the budget to the controversy of bringing the budget to the National Assembly through subterranean means”
He continued, “then again, the president bringing another version of the budget from the National Assembly and that very version was what head of Ministries Department and Agencies, Ministers and the rest came to the National Assembly to disown. So if you want to even look at it from that dimension, you will see they don’t even have a budget”.
He further confirmed that the Minister of Transportation is not even aware of the budget submitted. He said “now I give you an example. Why I am giving you this background is for you to understand when a statement comes from the part of the government, we should begin to think, do they even have a document?”
“Yesterday’s evening, the same Minister of Transport was still arguing with the speaker at the Presidential Villa that the Calabar-Lagos rail project was included in the budget. It tells you he does not understand the budget”. Hon. Jibrin also accused the Presidency of looking for a scapegoat.
However, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo last Thursday at the Nation’s newspaper Forum for Economic development listed the Lagos-Calabar Rail Project as one of the 33 priority actions for the 2016 fiscal year. The Vice President stated that there are plans to complete the Kaduna-Abuja and Ajaokuta-Warri Rail lines; commence the construction of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge line; and finalize negotiations for the Calabar-Lagos Rail Project.
With the source of the reports still unverified, Nigerians will have to wait for the president to return from China to know exactly what happened. The Minister of Transportation is part of the entourage of the President.