Federal lawmakers, especially those from the Southwest, got some knocks yesterday over the slashing of the vote for the Lagos-Ibadan expressway in the 2017 budget.
Power, Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola raised the alarm over the vote slash from N31 billion to N10billion. He also complained about the cutting of the votes for other crucial projects and the vote diverted to boreholes and primary healthcare.
The lawmakers said the budget was lopsided in favour of the Southwest. They also chided the minister for breaching their legislative privilege.
Senator Solomon Adeola (Lagos West), responding to a question on facebook, said he aligned himself “with the position of the Senate.”
Chairman of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) Mr. Olawale Oshun described as callous the decision to slash the fund for the project.
He said: “It’s been quite a long time the legislative and the executive arms of government have not been serious about the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. Up to 70 per cent of goods imported through Apapa port go through that road to other parts of the country.”
The former whip of the House of Representatives berated the lawmakers from the Southwest for allowing such decision to stand.
He said Nigerians would one day judge between those who serving them and those against their interest.
“If the Yoruba members of the National Assembly cannot even defend a project of interest to their constituents, what would they expect from lawmakers from other regions? It even goes beyond the Yoruba lawmakers because this road is the most important economic link in terms of the transport system of the country and beneficiaries are spread across the country. The economic downturn would affect a lot of people. It shows a sense of callousness on the perception of duty call among the lawmakers,” he said.
He attributed the lawmakers’ action to the politicisation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ill-health.
“It is unfortunate because of the fallout of the politicisation of Mr President’s ill-health. Were Mr President around, his personality is enough to deter the lawmakers from tampering with the budgetary allocation to the road.
“Nigerians have suffered enough on that road on a daily basis. The economy of the country stands to benefit more if the road is completed. This is a country where unemployment rate is exploding and when we should be talking of improving infrastructure and the most important project is being neglected, undermined all in the name of politics? It is undesirable,” he said.
Human Rights Activist Debo Adeniran urged caution, saying the National Assembly only took a decisive action, following the faulty implementation of past budgets.
He said if the cost of implementation of the project was inadequate, there is room for supplementary budget or virement.
Adeniran added: “It is not the reduction of the cost that matters no: it is the capacity of the ministry to implement the project. It is not the fault of the National Assembly, but a product of experience of how the project was handled in the past.
“There is no need for frustration, until the National Assembly fails to approve the supplementary budget, if the current budget is exhausted.”
Pro-democracy activist Moshood Erubami also knocked the lawmakers.
The President, Nigeria Voters Assembly, said: “Nigerians condemn the dangerous experiment which the huge cut in the budget allocation to the Ibadan / Lagos Express road carried on the their lives.
“There is need for a united front among lawmakers to immediately call for a supplementary budget to return the huge deduction made from the allocation to the lbadan/ Lagos Express road and forget the needless invitation to the minister of works for stating the obvious
“It is imperative that united action must be taken by Nigerians to ensure safety and security on the most important road that links Lagos to other parts of the country.
“It is ironic and unpleasant that southern senators were being indifferent, apathetic and ambivalent when a huge slash was being taken from the allocation to the only road that the South can be proud of in the federation.
He added: “It is quite indefensible and unrepresentative for the National Assembly to be indifferent to the huge cut of N21 billion from the allocation of N31b vote for the project. Where then lies their oversight, good legislation and representation of the people? Their action is not only misguided but also devoid of genuine motives.
Senator Lekan Balogun called for caution on the row between the executive and the lawmakers.
Balogun, who is a stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State, said though the road is a major one, stakeholders should encourage both parties to find an amicable solution to the disagreement.
He expressed regret that most political decisions in Nigeria were not based on objectivity.
“Lagos-Ibadan expressway is a major road in Nigeria. It has to be completed because it links Lagos with other parts of the country,” he said.
(Edited By Olamide Michael)