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As of today, there is no existing contract for the 2nd Niger Bridge—NASS

…Reveals that budget for bridge in 2016/17 not used for it by FG

Contrary to all presidential promises on the delivery of second Niger Bridge based on budgetary allocations in both 2016 and 2017, the National Assembly has revealed that apart from discovering that there is no existing contract for the bridge, “the N12.5bn and the N7.5bn appropriated for the Second Niger Bridge in the 2016 and 2017 budget by the National Assembly were never utilised for the project.”

Giving a clear update on the endless construction of the Second Niger Bridge project, the lawmakers made a shocking revelation that “Apart from early works, as of today, there is no existing contract for the Second Niger Bridge in spite of frequent requests from the National Assembly”.

They also disclosed that “The N900m reduced from the N10b proposed by the executive was deployed to fund ancillary roads that connect to the bridge. It should again be noted that the N12.5bn and the N7.5bn appropriated for the Second Niger Bridge in the 2016 and 2017 budget by the National Assembly were never utilised for the project.”

NASS also noted that the Second Niger Bridge, including access roads – Phases 2A and 2B in Anambra and Delta states, and other projects in the South-East were reduced from N10bn to N9.1bn, a reduction of N900m.

However, the revelation by the lawmakers on the current delivery status of the bridge suggests that government may have not taken the infrastructure as one of its key priority like the way it is pursuing development of standard gauge rail system from Lagos to Kano after all.

It would be recalled that few months ago, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo while on a visit to Awka, told South East leaders that government has released additional N2bn for the bridge delivery, but was silent on how the two years of budgetary allocations for the infrastructure was spent.

Still on critical infrastructure financing in the 2018 budget, the National Assembly made it clear that the budget provisions were rejigged to correct the alleged imbalance in Buhari’s version of the bill, the National Assembly members in a joint press briefing, averred that projects as proposed in the bill sent by President Buhari violated the federal character and did not reflect the needs of ordinary Nigerians.

It would be recalled that Buhari had while assenting to the bill on Wednesday last week, complained about the increment of the 2018 budget from the proposed N8.612tn to N9.12tn, as well as the adjustments made to the estimates.

According to him, “The National Assembly made cuts amounting to N347bn in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578bn.”

But in a smart reply, the Chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi and Mr. Abdul-Razak Nandas, respectively made the National Assembly’s position known at a joint press conference in Abuja on Friday, saying the reduction of allocations to the proposed projects and re-allocation of votes to others in the budget were made in order to address geopolitical imbalances in the budget presented by the executive.

They noted that “Adjustments and reductions in the locations, costs and number of projects approved were made in order to address geopolitical imbalances that came with the executive proposal. The introduction of new projects was done to ensure the promotion of the principles of Federal Character as contained in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.

Continuing in their responses to President Buhari’s remarks while signing the budget, the lawmakers said, “It was stated that the legislature made cuts amounting to N347bn, which were meant for 4,700 projects.  Again, these reductions of N347bn were made from low priority areas to higher priority areas to support the generation of employment for our youth by Micro, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises.

“We took the decision to reduce the funds in some areas in order to ensure balance and equity in the spread and utilisation of our national funds. Additionally, the figures given as amounts of the reductions made by the National Assembly were unduly exaggerated as we did not make any substantial reduction on any project to the extent of affecting its implementation.”

Stressing its point, the National Assembly noted that the counterpart funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/Ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project, was reduced by only N3,956,400,290, representing only 1.78 per cent of the total N222,569,335,924 submitted by President Buhari.

It stated, “This left these projects with N218,612,935,634 which cannot negatively affect their implementation. This obviously contradicts the claim that these projects lost ‘an aggregate of N11.5bn.’”

Breaking down the estimates, the lawmakers noted that the counterpart funding for the 3,050megawatts Mambilla Hydropower Project was reduced from N8.5bn to N8.2bn, a reduction of N300m.

The construction of Bodo-Bonny Road with a bridge across the Opobo channel in Rivers State, the legislature said, was reduced from N10bn to N8.7bn, a reduction of N1.3bn.

NASS said the fund for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced from N20bn to N18bn, a reduction of N2bn, “which would not significantly affect the construction of the road in one appropriation cycle.”

During the joint briefing, NASS averred further that the counterpart funds allocated to railway projects across the country, totalling N162,284,335,924, as presented by the President, were retained.

The rail projects include the Lagos-Kano (ongoing), Calabar-Lagos (ongoing), Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Aladja-Warri (ongoing), Port Harcourt-Maiduguri (new), Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi in Niger Republic (new), Abuja-Itakpe; Aladja-Warri-Warri Port and Refinery, including Warri New Harbour (new); Bonny Deep Sea Port and Port Harcourt.

The National Assembly further said it increased the aggregate funding for the East-West Road from N11.285bn to N12,085bn “because we realised the strategic importance of the road to the entire oil producing areas of our country and the fact that the road project has lingered for too long.”