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Preliminary signs of possible crash of 2017 budget emerging gradually

With recent bickering, claims and counter claims zooming out from both the ministers and the National Assembly members, national budget analysts are beginning to see reasons on why the implementation of 2017 budget may be marred with early failures.

First of all, the early signs came from the delay in assenting the budget passed by the National Assembly.

Shortly after, the Executives and mainly the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola accused the lawmakers of arbitrarily slashing allocations agreed at public hearings and meetings and including what he described as not relevant in an ailing economy.

But in no distant time, the lawmakers started firing back from several angles.

Weekend, the Senate, opened up on why it reduced funds allocated for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and spread it across other projects not initially provided for in the budget proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Whereas the Spokesman of the Red Chambers, Aliu Saabi Abdullahi, who clarified the position of the upper arm of the NASS accused Fashola, of being deceitful and selfish in his handling of matters concerning the road project, the chairman of House Committee on Media and Public Publicity, Abdulrazak Namdas, said the decision to redistribute the projects proposed by the ministry was in order to ensure an even spread of projects across all regions, which the proposal of the executive had failed to do.

In the same vein with the Reps, Abdullahi, defended the position of the National Assembly, and argued that lawmakers acted in national interest, and to ensure that equity and fairness was achieved in the distribution of projects.

According to Saabi Abdullahi, Fashola did not give members of the public full details of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which has been on a private finance initiative from the beginning.

He said the minister, rather preferred an arrangement that allows his ministry to continue awarding contracts and funding the project through government budgetary allocations, even at a time that the nation’s revenue is dwindling.

In his further argument, Namdas said considering that the funds allocated for the second Niger Bridge in 2016 were returned untouched at the end of the year, the National Assembly decided to reduce N5 billion from the 2017 Budget for second Niger Bridge to fund other projects from the South East, leaving N7 billion for the 2nd Niger Bridge.

In his submissions, he said “The truth is that in the 2016 Budget, N12 billion was appropriated for the 2nd Niger Bridge and not a kobo was spent by the Ministry”.

“The Ministry could not provide the Committees of the National Assembly with evidence of an agreement on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) or a contract for the second Niger Bridge”.

He argued that in the spirit of true spread of the positive impacts of the 2017 budget, the National Assembly had to intervene to fund some other critical roads that were totally neglected in the Executive Budget proposal and gave instance with some roads including the Abuja- Kaduna–Zaria–Kano Road.

Namdas averred that “N5 billion was provided in the 2016 Budget. It was not utilised. In 2017 Budget, the National Assembly again provided N3 billion for this very critical road that connects many states and where incidents of kidnapping are rife because of bad roads, as we believe that all parts of Nigeria deserve attention or would the Minister also claim that this road has no design?”

On the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the lawmaker said the leadership meetings of both the Executive and Legislature were held, where it was clarified that alternative funding exists for the road through PPP arrangement and the concessionaires had enough money to fund the project, hence the decision to move some funds to other areas of need.

He queried “Why spend government money if there is a clear existing funding framework in place and so many ongoing road projects are unfunded?”

But beyond all the accusations and counter accusations trailing the 2017 budget, the real fact hobbling take off implementation seems to be serious drop in federal revenues traced to vandalism in oil producing communities and Nigeria’s weak compliance to taxation.

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