Hon. Jibril Abdulmumin, House of Representatives Committee on Finance, on Sunday reacted to reports that the National Assembly altered provisions for major national projects and programmes in the 2016 budget.
A presidency source had disclosed that in protest, President Muhammadu Buhari may this week return the revised document sent to the executive by the legislature.
Reacting, Abdulmumin in a series of tweet defended the National Assembly, saying what he and his colleagues did was in the best interest of the country.
“Lagos-Calabar Railway line was NEVER captured in the budget that was sent by the Executive. How then could it have been removed by NASS?
“I actually find it shocking that even some National Dailies made the removal their headlines. A little research would have helped. All they, and those spreading the false information needed to have done is check the initial document sent by the Executive.
“Lagos-Calabar Rail was never included. How could NASS have removed what was not there? But the nation is being misled. The NASS has always been on the receiving end of bad press. This is being capitalised on in the conversations on #Budget2016
“This is unfortunate as it is quite clear to all and sundry that #Budget2016 and all its headaches and controversies didn’t emanate from the NASS.
“Take the budget of the ministry of Transportation for instance. It was overshot by N54b. That is, by the time you add up the items on the ministry’s budget. You’d still have a gap of N54b. N54billion lying there without being allocated.
“NASS has a responsibility and here it did the right thing. What NASS did with the N54billion; We added N39.7b to the Lagos-Kano Rail project. This will help complete the project once and for all.
“We also allocated N10b of this sum to the airports’ navigation and security apparatus. We often make so much noise about airport security after major plane crashes. But we need not wait for crashes to enhance safety at airports.
“We allocated the balance to Baro Ports for its completion and equipping. Baro Port is strategic to our economic development. Much ado about vaccines that weren’t even there. The budget of the ministry of Health was the most controversial.
“The Minister of Health came to deny the document that was presented to the NASS by the Executive for the 2nd time. There is a lot more to be said about this and they will be said in the coming days.
“I saw reports saying NASS allocated too much for Rural projects including rural roads, primary health care, empowerment programmes.
“We also allocated funding for rural solar street lights, vocational centres, cottage industries etc. On this one, there is no going back. Nigeria isn’t just for urban dwellers & as representatives of the people, ours is to ensure justice in the distribution of national wealth.
“About 95% of the input of NASS which would have given life to the policy thrust of Mr. President were discarded by the Executive. Some of these inputs include; Special Intervention for the Solid Mineral Sector. This is even imperative seeing the realities around oil.
“Some of our other inputs include; Special Intervention for Rural Agriculture, Payment of Pension Arrears. Rural Community Light project. The Rural Community Light project to light up 100 communities spread across the 774 Local Governments.
“We also had Special Programmes for Women Empowerment and the payment of debt owed local contractors. We also suggested N100b be taken out of N500b set aside as Special Intervention Fund.
“That N50b be set aside as special bursary for students of tertiary institutions, and another N50b for special training on Entrepreneurship for students of tertiary institutions pre-graduation. These were our inputs.
“These are my preliminary submissions seeing as there have been no official communication between the Executive and the National Assembly.
“These points are being noted because of the reports in some of today’s papers -who really would have done better with a little more research. Not to mention the fact that the Executive has not come out to disown the false reports flying around.
“We will come up with a comprehensive position especially with respect to our observation of the budget and what we did to make it better.
“The crux of the matter as it is, is that while the NASS believes in the bottom up agenda for development- focus on rural areas & communities. The Executive seems to favour a top-down approach.
“But this is not enough reason to mislead Nigerians on the role of NASS on the budget. It is important to have a fact based conversation on these issues instead of the obvious attempts by some to mislead the general public.”