Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has described reports that the National Assembly removed the Lagos-Calabar rail project from the 2016 budget as barefaced lies.
In a series of tweets yesterday, Dogara denied that there was any inclusion of proposal for the Lagos- Calabar rail project in the budget.
He said the argument that Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, submitted the proposal does not hold water.
”Barefaced lies, where is the existence of the provision of N60 billion for Coastal Rail line in the budget estimate?” he queried.
“The relevant question to ask is: was it provided for in the budget estimate sent to the National Assembly? The Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, doesn’t have any constitutional power to prepare a budget estimate and lay it before the National Assembly,” he stated.
The speaker reasoned that the story was the handiwork of mischiefmakers who are bent on causing friction between the presidency and the legislature.
He asked: “Who in the executive said so? Details of the Federal Ministry of Transport, FMOT budget estimates are out there, kindly review it and give me budget code.
“Who in the Presidency said so? The presidential spokesman or the Information Minister? Name the source!”
Dogara added: “Playing this North-South game is unhelpful. That is simply the goal of the planters of this fiction.”
“Nothing like Presidency is involved here, it is a shameless falsehood meant to stir hatred. It is most despicable, absolute rubbish. “They are smart enough to demand for the evidence, let them publish it if they have any evidence; if it is actually coming from the Presidency.”
Corroborating the speaker’s position at a media briefing, chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas, reiterated that the budget proposal presented by Buhari never contained the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail project.
He said: “I want to make it clear that the proposal sent by the president does not have anything like the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail line. What we are saying is that we could not have removed what was not contained in the budget proposal.
“We want to place on record that the National Assembly has not removed anything. But we want to advise that if we pass the budget and the president has observations about it, he has right to return it for us to look at it again. To say that we are trying to frustrate the government is not true. How can we amend what has not been passed into law?”
The spokesman, however, noted that the House was yet to receive any official communication from the president that he was not comfortable with the budget as passed by the National Assembly.
According to him, it was Amaechi that brought the Lagos-Calabar proposal to the parliament, insisting that the process itself was wrong because “only the president has the power to submit appropriation bill before the parliament.”
Also, chairman of the House Committee on Public Petitions, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (Abia PDP), advised the president to sign the budget and send a supplementary to the National Assembly for consideration.
“The minister has said he brought it (Calabar- Lagos rail project) during the budget defence, meaning it was not part of the estimates submitted. If we had included it, would it not amount to padding?” he added.
Abonta, who spoke in Abuja, queried why the National Assembly is being fingered in the controversy of the removal of the rail project.
“They said we removed it, the minister said he brought it. So, are there two budgets?”
Abonta said and added that the President’s first outing on budget has shown that he cannot rely on civil servants.