The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Sunday dismissed reports that the National Assembly removed certain key infrastructural projects proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari from the 2016 budget.
On Saturday, reports quoting anonymous presidency sources, said President Muhammadu Buhari proposed a N60 billion Lagos-Calabar rail project in the budget but was removed from the budget by the National Assembly.
While the reports claimed the vote for the Idu-Kaduna rail was slashed, they also added that Lagos-Kano rail project was left untouched.
Online news medium Premium Times claims some government insiders also discreetly passed the same information to it but it's reporters ignored it after pouring through the budget and finding that no Lagos-Calabar rail project was included in the 2016 appropriation bill.
Speaking on the contreversy, Sunday, Mr. Dogara said Buhari did not propose any Lagos-Calabar rail project in the budget submitted to the National Assembly.
He said this via his Twitter account @speakerdogara.
Asked by a Twitter user to provide explanation regarding why the National Assembly removed the rail project, Mr. Dogara replied, “Barefaced lies. Where is the evidence of provision of N60b for Coastal Rail line in the budget estimate?”
He continued, “The relevant question to ask is, was it provided for in the Budget estimate sent to NASS?”
“Who in the Presidency said so? The Presidential spokesman or Minister of information? Name the source.”
He continued, “I guess from beer parlours as any reasonable man claiming so would have given the hard evidence.
“Absolute rubbish. They are smart enough to demand evidence. Let them publish it if they have any.
“Playing this North – South game is unhelpful. That’s simply the goal of the planters of this factoid.
“Nothing like presidency involved here. It’s a shameless falsehood meant to stir hatred. It’s most despicable.”
Similarly, the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin corroborated Mr. Dogara’s position.
“Lagos-Calabar Railway line was NEVER captured in the budget that was sent by the Executive. How then could it have been removed by NASS?
“All they, and those spreading the false information needed to have done is check the initial document sent by the Executive,” Mr. Jibrin said via his Twitter account @Abdulabmj.
It remains unclear why the newspapers that published the report did not check the budget to ascertain the claim by the anonymous sources or reach out to the National Assembly for clarifications
Mr. Jibrin added that the budget of the Ministry of Transport was “overshot” by N54 billion which was then used to shore up vote for other projects.
He said, “N54billion (was) lying there (Ministry of Transport budget) without being allocated. NASS has a responsibility and here it did the right thing
“What NASS did with the N54billion: We added N39.7b to the Lagos-Kano Rail project. This will help complete the project once and for all.
“We also allocated N10b of this sum to airports’ navigation and security apparatus.
“We often make so much noise about airport security after major plane crashes. But we need not wait for crashes to enhance safety at airports
“We allocated the balance to Baro Ports for its completion and equipping. Baro Port is strategic to our economic development.”
He explained the purpose of altering the original proposal to make provisions for some “rural projects.”
“I saw reports saying NASS allocated too much for rural projects including rural roads, primary health care, empowerment programmes.
“We also allocated funding for rural solar street lights, vocational centres, cottage industries etc. On this one, there is no going back.
“Nigeria isn’t just for urban dwellers. As representatives of the people, ours is to ensure justice in the distribution of national wealth.”