The Ministry of Transport yesterday reacted to the claim by the National Assembly that the Lagos-Calabar rail project was not in the 2016 budget, insisting that the project was duly captured in the budget proposal sent to the legislature.
According to the spokesperson of the ministry, Yetunde Sonaike, the lawmakers were to blame for the omission of the Lagos-Calabar rail project in what was eventually passed by the National Assembly and sent to President Muhammadu Buhari.
She queried why Rotimi Amaechi would be asked by the National Assembly to resign as minister of Transport when he had done nothing wrong.
According to her, “Why should he resign? The budget we presented had the Lagos-Calabar rail project and whatever happened to it is definitely not from us at the ministry or from the minister as he had done his job well.”
Meanwhile, the National Assembly yesterday debunked reports that federal lawmakers tampered with the 2016 Budget outside their constitutional power of appropriation, even as it maintained that the nation’s Parliament would not work at cross purpose with President Muhammadu Buhari’s change agenda.
Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, who disclosed this to journalists at a press conference, also said the controversial Calabar-Lagos rail project was never part of the 2016 Appropriation Bill presented by Buhari to a joint sitting of the National Assembly Tuesday, December 22, 2015.
He added that the lawmakers couldn’t have remove a line item from the budget when the said provision was not in the estimates in the first place, noting that any amendment to the budget can also be done by the President only and not by a proxy.
“I want to state here very clearly that in the presentation made by Mr. President, he did not include the Calabar – Lagos Rail Project and I have here with me the Appropriation Bill (for the Ministry of Transportation) and you can check it for the record.
“What we are saying is that we couldn’t have removed what was not even inserted in the first place, this is actually not true. The story again is that the Minister (of Transportation) brought the Calabar – Lagos Rail Project to be included in the budget. We want to say clearly that budget is an estimate that is always presented in a joint sitting of the National Assembly by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we do not receive budget from the Ministers, it is from Mr. President.
“And what was given to us did not include the Calabar – Lagos Railway Project. So, for somebody to say that we removed something from this budget and that we pushed to the North, I think it is just to smear our image,” Namdas said.
The spokesman of the House added that it was on record that the Executive arm of government earlier admitted the padding of the budget estimates, which resulted in the penalisation of some bureaucrats, wondering why lawmakers will now be wrongful accused for carrying out their lawful duties on the fiscal policy.
“I want to add that in the interest of this country, if we pass a budget and we transmit it to the President for assent, if the President decides or discover there are certain things he want them done in a certain ways, the President has the right to return it back and it will include the details of what Mr. President want.”
On his part, Senate spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi has insisted that the Lagos -Calabar rail project was not originally included in the 2016 budget by the Executive.
Senator Sabi, however, said the executive had a window to include the project in the supplementary budget as required by the constitution, adding that there was no conflict between the Executive and Legislature.
Meanwhile, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang,yesterday said President Muhammadu Buhari did not reject the 2016 budget as being speculated.