Former Lagos State Governor and Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) has dared the National Assembly to bring their facts to the Supreme Court while lambasting its spokespersons for attacking him over his observations on the 2017 Budget.
The Minister in a statement signed by his media aid, Hakeem Bello, on Monday said, “Being an institutional and not a personal issue, it won’t be out of place to seek a resolution of the conflict at the Supreme Court in order to protect the country’s future, because it is a clear conflict about how best to serve the people.”
Fashola, who had criticized the legislature for unilaterally altering the budget, said it was sad that the lawmakers resorted to name calling even without understanding the facts of his argument.
The statement said there was no subsisting concession agreement on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, adding that what the Infrastructure Construction Regulatory Commission (ICRC) had was a financing agreement from a consortium of banks which was like a loan that still had to be paid back through budgetary provisions.
“There is no fallacy or half truth in the allegation that the budgets were reduced. The spokespersons admitted this much and now sought to rationalise it by a concession or financing arrangement that has failed to build the road since 2006. The biggest momentum seen on the road was in 2016”, it stated.
On the Second Niger Bridge where one of the Senate spokespersons alleged that the provision in 2016 budget was not spent and had to be returned, Fashola said this displayed stark and worrisome gaps in knowledge of the spokesperson about the budget process he was addressing.
“A budget is not cash. It is an approval of estimates of expenditure to be financed by cash from the Ministry of Finance.
“The Ministry of Finance has not yet released any cash for the Second Niger Bridge, so no money was returned.
“Three phases of Early Works of piling and foundation was approved and financed by the previous government in the hope that a concession will finally be issued, which has not happened because concessionaires have not been able to raise finance.
“The continuation of Early Works IV could not start in May 2016 when the budget was passed because of high water level in the River Niger in the rainy season.
“The contract was only approved by the Federal Executive Council in the first quarter of 2017 and the contractor is awaiting payment”, he said.
Fahola dismissed allegation that the works ministry under him was holding on to projects that could be funded through Public Private Partnerships (PPP) so that he could award contracts.
The former Lagos governor recalled that on his assumption of office, he made it clear publicly and privately that his priority would be to finish as many of the several hundreds of projects that his ministry inherited which had not been funded for close to three years.
“If the spokesperson was in tune with the Public Procurement Law which the National Assembly passed, he would realise that the minister has no unilateral power to award such contracts whose values are in billions of Naira.
“All the new projects presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval were either federal roads requested by state governments or those put in the budget by the legislators to service their constituencies,” the statement stressed.
Fashola stated that the focus on contracts by the spokesperson is probably a Freudian slip that reveals his mindset and interests; when indeed he should be focused on developmental projects that strengthen the economy, which is the focus of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan endorsed by the legislature.
On the issue of the N20 billion provision in the Ministry’s Budget which the spokesperson alleged that the minister failed to give details of, Fashola said the spokesperson is hiding behind a finger.
“It was a very basic principle of good planning to make provision for unforeseen contingencies.
“In the 2016 budget, a similar provision enabled the ministry to respond to the failures of the Tamburawa Bridge in Sokoto, the Ijora Bridge in Lagos and the Gada Hudu Bridge in Koto Karfe along the Abuja – Lokoja Highway.
“The ministry was able to pay N1 billion to the contractor handling the Suleja to Minna road.
“The recent failures caused by flooding along Tegina-Mokwa-Jebba road and Tatabu in Niger State could not have been provided because they were not foreseen and there may be more. This is what good planning is about.
“In any event, allegations of half truth is only a flawed response to the constitutional and developmental issues that have plagued Nigeria from 1999 about how to budget for the critical infrastructure in Nigeria.
“It shows the conflict between the Executive that wants to build big Federal Highways; Bridges; Power Plants; Rail; and Dams on one hand and Parliament that wants to do small things like bore holes, health centres, street lights and supplying grinding machines.
“As long as budgets planned to deliver life changing infrastructure are cut into small pieces, Nigeria will continue to have small projects that are not life changing, and big projects that have not been completed in 17 years.
“If a project would cost N15 billion and the contractor gets only a fraction of that, then things won’t move.
“Success should be defined by how many projects an administration is able to complete or set on the path of irreversible completion and not how many poorly funded contracts are awarded,” the statement concluded.