By Our Correspondent
The last may not have been heard about the brouhaha hovering over the 2016 Appropriation Bill which reports say the President has refused to sign until details are properly sorted out.
The latest are reports of the removal of some of the President’s most critical infrastructure focus components of the budget by members of the National Assembly and the re-appropriation of funds meant for the projects to constituency projects for the Chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Appropriation.
Reports say the National Assembly approved the Lagos-Kano rail project, which had a proposed budget of N100 billion, and then took N40 billion from the Lagos-Calabar rail project and added it to the Lagos-Kano rail project to make it N140 billion.
The balance of N40 billion was then distributed to projects located in the northern part of the country, mainly roads – many of which are located in the constituencies of the Appropriation Committee Chairmen in the Senate and House of Representatives, Senator Danjuma Goje and Hon. Abdulmumini Jibrin, respectively. While Goje hails from Gombe, Jubrin is from Kano State.
The Lagos-Calabar Coastal Railway, the subject of President Buhari’s trip to China this weekend and one of the projects for which a counterpart funding of N60 Billion was provided by the federal government and additional N20 Billion by the Chinese government, was completely removed from the budget by the National Assembly.
This was said to have irked President Buhari as most of the projects that funds were channelled to by the Appropriation Committees, were not even viable as feasibility studies had not be carried out on them.
But even more worrisome is the fact that most of the members of the National Assembly from Cross River State are in a limbo and some are completely not even aware of these details or are bluntly feigning ignorance.
When CrossRiverWatch contacted some of the lawmakers, they said there were not aware of the alterations by the Appropriation committee, and were surprised but promised to follow up and take appropriate steps to redress the figures.
When CrossRiverWatch spoke with Senator John Owan Enoh, (Cross River Central, PDP) who is also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, he could not deny or confirm the information but simply promised to get back to us after confirming the details.
Hon. Jarigbe Agom (Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency, PDP) was obviously not aware of the details and promised to contact other members from the state ‘immediately’ to take immediate action. He also assured that other members from Lagos and other coastal states where the railway will traversed will be contacted for coordinated response.
In a similar vein, Hon. Legor Idagbo, (Obudu/Bekwara/Obanlikwu Federal Constituency, PDP) also was not aware of the development. He promised that once the information is confirmed, members from the state will ‘definitely’ not keep quite over the issue. He also promised speedy action and called for calm on the part of Cross Riverians.
Hon. Chris Agibe, (Ikom/Boki Federal Constituency, PDP) who is also a member of the House Committee on Appropriation did not take his calls at the time of filing this report.
Senator Gershom Bassey, (Cross River South Senatorial District, PDP), Senator Rose Oko (Cross River North Senatorial District, PDP), Hon. Bassey Ewah (Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency, PDP), Hon. Etta Mbora (Odukpani/Calabar Municipal Federal Constituency, PDP), Hon. Essien Ayi (Calabar South/Akpabio/Bakassi Federal Constituency, PDP) all did not take their calls at the time of filing this report.
But THISDAY reports that some lawmakers from other sections of the country who spoke to the paper on the juggling of the budget votes condemned the development and bluntly viewed the Appropriation Committees’ action as an abuse of the trust reposed in them to finalize the details of the budget without reverting back to them.
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