How APC Internal Crisis Caused Budget Brouhaha
Fresh insights into how political infighting in the All Progressives Congress, APC, and ego by senior officials of the National Assembly led to the extraction of the Lagos – Calabar rail project and other key infrastructure projects of the administration from budget 2016 have been unveiled.
At the centre of the controversy, yesterday, were the chairmen of Senate and House of Representatives committees on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje and Abdulmumin Jibrin. The reports of the two committees on Land Transport, Vanguard learned, contained proposals for the Lagos – Calabar and Kaduna – Idu rail projects which were both removed by the committees of appropriation in both chambers. Vanguard is in possession of a text message purportedly sent to committee chairmen in the House of Representatives by Jibrin, asking them to defend whatever controversy could arise from the action in the media.
Pesidency officials were peeved by the fact that the legislature had seemingly removed the carpet from under President Muhammadu Buhari’s feet, given the fact that the action was done just as he was about leaving for China to negotiate foreign assistance necessary to fast-track the projects.
Senate spokesman, Abdullahi Sabi and his House of Reps counterpart, Abdulrazak Namdas, yesterday, rebuffed assertions that the Calabar – Lagos rail project was removed, saying in separate fora to journalists that the item was not in the initial proposal submitted by the president.
They also alleged that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi only brought it to the attention of the legislators after the president’s presentation.
Lagos-Calabar rail project in budget — Ashafa
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee Chairman on Land Transportation, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, maintained that the railway project was accommodated in the budget but was surprised that it was removed.
Senator Ashafa said: “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 defence session before the Senate Committee on Land Transport, the Minister for Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, did inform the committee of the omission of the Lagos to Calabar rail modernisation 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 modernisation projects was N120 billion, being N60 billion 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, he said.
Ashafa continued: “In so doing, the committee observed that the Lagos to Kano rail rehabilitation project had been allocated the sum of N52 billion as against the sum of N60 billion which the Hon. Minister requested as counterpart funding while no allocation whatsoever was made for the Lagos to Calabar rail line.
“Hence, the sum of N54 billion that was discovered by the Senate Committee on Land Transport to be floating in the budget of the Ministry of Transportation as presented by the Executive was injected into augmenting the funds needed for counterpart funding of both projects (Lagos to Kano and Lagos to Calabar Rail modernisation), as at the time the committee defended its report before the senate committee on Appropriation.