Abdulmumin Jibrin, chairman of the federal house of representatives committee on appropriation, has said that Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transport, does not understand his own ministry’s budget.
Speaking in an interview with Channels Television programme ‘Sunrise Daily’ this morning, chairman of the federal house of representatives committee on appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who played a major role in the securitisation of the 2016 budget submitted to the National Assembly, has dismissed claims that lawmakers allegedly distorted the budget and removed the Calabar-Lagos rail project.
The lawmaker said that the House had on the contrary helped the Executive Arm of Government to regularise the budget, insisting that the executive had no understanding of the document.
It can be recalled that after the National Assembly passed the budget and returned it to the executive, there were reports, quoting the executive as saying that the rail project was removed by the National Assembly and that the budget was tilted to favour some parts of Nigeria by removing the 60 billion Naira meant for the Calabar- Lagos rail project.
Defending the National Assembly’s input in the budget, Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin, said they did a thorough job on the budget.
“We gave the ministers opportunity to defend their budget before the committee came up with a good report which we studied, placing it side by side with the submission of the executive. What we sent to the Executive Arm of Government is an implementable budget.
“I was shocked that such statement can actually come out. I have stated yesterday (Sunday) evening that the rail project was not included in the submission that came to the National Assembly neither was it included in the report of the committee. We do not have the Calabar-Lagos rail project in any of the documents submitted to the National Assembly.
“The national assembly cannot remove what is not there. It is very obvious that some people want to set Nigerians in collision with one another. It is a very sad situation and we need to actually be more patriotic to the country,” he stated.
On the claim that some parts of Nigeria were favoured, Honourable Jibrin dismissed the claim, saying ‘the fact that I am the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee does not exclude people of Kano from being Nigerians. If any project goes to Kano or my constituency, it is very unfair for anyone to start complaining simply because I am Chairman of Appropriation Committee.’
“The reality of the matter is that we did not try to corner anything. Projects are spread across. They Don’t Even Have A Budget.”
The lawmaker said that the National Assembly had helped the executive to correct the budget and address the confusion created by the document which he attributed to the fact that it was prepared by a task force.
“I do not believe that the Executive Arm of Government really understand the document they sent to the National Assembly or they have even properly studied the document that we sent back to them.
“In the first place you saw all the confusion, from the point of preparing the budget to the controversy of bringing the budget to the National Assembly and accusation of trying to pull out the budget from the National Assembly through subterranean means.
“Then again the President bringing another version of the budget to the National Assembly and that very new version was what head of Ministries Department and Agencies, Ministers and the rest came to the National Assembly to disown.
“So, if you want to even look at it from that dimension, you will see they don’t even have a budget,” he insisted.
Honourable Jibrin defended his claims further, saying: “Now, I give you an example. Why I am giving you this background is for you to understand when a statement comes from that part of the government, we should begin to think, do they even understand the document?
“Yesterday’s evening, the same Minister of Transport was still arguing with the Speaker at the Presidential Villa that the Calabar-Lagos rail project was included in the budget. It tells you he does not understand the budget.”
He alleged that the beginning of the confusion was the attempt of Ministers, who came in after the budget had been prepared by the permanent secretaries in charge of the ministries, to alter the budget.
“The whole responsibility was taken away from the budget office. A task force was set up to prepare a budget headed by a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of budget and that task force was powered by the consultant that was brought in to implement the zero budgeting system.
“At the end of the day, the poor Director General of the budget office was sacrificed, used as a scapegoat. Now they want to use the National Assembly as a second scapegoat and we are saying no. You can’t use us. We are not part of it.
“You created all the confusion there. We have helped you to manage it but again, when you try to drag us into that, we are not going to accept it,” he further claimed.
He said that the committee discovered that the total sum of the Ministry of Transport was poorly calculated, which he blamed on the task force.
“The budget was overblown by 54 billion Naira. In the line items, there was nothing like Calabar-Lagos. What we have was Lagos-Kano, a rail line from the southern part of the country to the northern part. It was underfunded and we took a portion of that 54 billion to complete Lagos-Kano rail project so that we can be done with that. And now, with the total amount we have for that project, it can be completed.”