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  • Senate slams Fashola: Stop deceiving NIgerians on 2017 budget
  • The Senate has cautioned Minister of Works,
    Housing and Power, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola,
    SAN, to stop spreading wrong information and
    half-truth about the 2017 budget as the
    legislators worked to ensure equity across the
    country on all new and outstanding projects.
    In a statement by its spokesperson, Senator
    Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate noted that Mr.
    Fashola did not give the public full details about
    the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which has been
    on a private finance initiative from the beginning
    because he would prefer an arrangement that
    allows the Ministry to continue to award
    contracts and fund the project through
    Government budgetary allocation at a time when
    the nation’s revenue is dwindling and at an all
    time low.
    Abdullahi stated that the Bureau of Public
    Procurement, and the Federal Executive Council
    in 2013, approved the reconstruction,
    rehabilitation and expansion of the Lagos-Ibadan
    expressway as a Public Private Partnership
    project using the Private Finance Initiative, with
    the Federal Government providing about 30
    percent of the funding while the balance shall be
    provided by the private sector. The project was
    on course for completion by end of 2017 when
    the private finance initiative was being
    implemented, with over 30 percent completion
    rate attained as at early 2015.
    Abdullahi further noted that in a blatant
    disregard for existing agreements, constituted
    authorities and extant laws, Fashola on
    assumption of office got Government through
    the Ministry to start voting money for the
    implementation of the project.
    “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 said.
    “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 he is
    Minister for the entire country and not just that
    of Lagos State.
    “It is our view that the Federal Government
    cannot fund the reconstruction and maintenance
    of all the 34,000 kilometres of roads under its
    care. We are looking for private funds for some
    of these roads, particularly those with high
    potentials of attracting private investors. These
    include the Enugu-Onitsha road, Kano-Abuja
    road and Abuja-Lokoja road. It has been our
    hope that the Lagos -Ibadan road would be a
    model for private sector funding of infrastructure
    in the country”, the spokesman stated.
    He added that Fashola knew that Federal
    Government cannot fully fund this road for
    completion by 2019 as he is promising
    Nigerians. “It’s deceit of the highest order. Just
    going by the last two years of funding where an
    average of about N30b per annum was released
    then 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 noted 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 will 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.
    “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 will not be uttering such
    statements. He should desist from spreading
    half-truths. When he said the National Assembly
    imported projects into the 2017 budget, he did
    not mention that these include the 26 projects
    which the Federal Government approved in the
    2016 budget, awarded contract for them in
    January 2016, but totally omitted them in the
    2017 budget. One of them is the Abuja-Kaduna
    road. 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.
    “Mr. Fashola obviously wants the Federal
    Ministry of Works to have many construction
    projects it can award contracts for and that is
    why he would always oppose any attempt to
    allow the private sector financing initiatives
    through Public Private Partnerships or other
    levels of Government to fund construction of
    roads under the control of the Federal
    Government. That was why he waited until he
    was arm-twisted on the Lagos Airport road
    before he allowed the Lagos State Government
    take up the reconstruction, using private funds.
    Same thing happened to the proposal for the
    Apapa Wharf road, which was frustrated for over
    a year before the stakeholders reined in the
    Ministry to grudgingly approve that Dangote and
    Flour Mills should take over the project.
    “It should also be explained that nobody
    introduced budgetary provisions for the sinking
    of boreholes and construction of clinics under
    the budget of the Works division of the Ministry.
    However, the Housing division would ordinarily
    have provision for such facilities in its estimate,
    so as to meet the Sustainable Development
    Goals as provided for by the United Nations .
    This is aimed at reducing slums and improve
    the well-being of our citizenry.
    “The National Assembly already have an
    agreement with the Acting President of the
    Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi
    Osinbajo, that if for example, the Private Finance
    Initiative does not materialize to provide the
    needed funds for the completion of the Lagos-
    Ibadan Expressway, just as in other areas where
    government has issues with the budget, the
    instruments of Virement and supplementary
    budget can be used. This is as a result of our
    belief that it is one Government and we all share
    the gains of the successes and pains of the
    failure. However, with all these blackmail game
    and backbiting going on, they are already laying
    the foundation for the failure of the agreement
    with the Executive”, he stated.
    Abdullahi added that the National Assembly
    acted in the national interest to ensure equity
    and fairness is achieved in the distribution of
    projects and to ensure that all sections of the
    country have representation in the national
    budget as guaranteed by the Nigerian
    constitution.

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