By Tordue Salem, Abuja
The House of Representatives said Tuesday that they will ensure that the N11 billion voted for road projects in the 2021 budget proposed by the Federal Highway Maintenance Agency (FERMA) is distributed evenly across the six geopolitical zones.
Representative Yusuf Gagdi, who questioned the controversial increase in FERMA’s budget, gave the update on the Committee’s position, while reacting to accusations that the proposal was ‘hastily considered’ without taking input from members, as raised the representative Bamidele Salam (PDP-Osun).
While he noted that the issue of the 11 billion naira supposedly inserted in the FERMA budget proposal was addressed during the budget defense, H.E. Gagdi maintained that the Committee will stop at nothing to ensure that projects are spread across all six geopolitical zones, if they are adopted in the Appropriation Act of 2021.
“All the members believed that, we did agree and we have not approved the budget. There was an envelope that the Ministry of Finance delivered to FERMA through the Ministry of Works, which is the supervising ministry of FERMA and I came to discover that the project was not increased by the National Assembly. Normally the Ministry of Finance has a budget involved because we operate on budget so I was aware of the fact that the envelope that was given to FERMA was not up to 30 billion, it was 20 billion.
“And suddenly, I discovered that they have presented from the Ministry of Finance to the National Assembly more than 30 billion with an increase of about 11 billion. I raised that issue and I still stand that no, how did they increase it? It is even the right of the budget office to present what they want to present to the National Assembly, I will not even call it filler because they have increased the money beyond the envelope of their Ministry.
“But my argument is this, where will you increase about 11 billion to a state? It’s not possible. Later, the FERMA commission agreed that the purpose of the elective representative is to ensure equity and equity to all geopolitical entities. Now we say that he has brought this budget, which was once on the sidelines. If you look at my comment very
well, I address the fact that the budget is not balanced. So we must balance the budget as the people who have the right to do so in such a way that it resembles the interest of Nigerians. So my position on the 11 billion remains that from somewhere between the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Finance, 11 billion went up inter-ministerially in the FERMA budget. And I still keep it, ”he said.
According to him, “I will give you the document, you will see it clearly. The predominant state that got those 11 billion that was
increased is the state of Imo without fear of political contradictions but I don’t know who increased it ”.
Speaking earlier, after the budget defense session, Mr. Salam observed that “there was an attempt to rush the approval of
the budget and avoid that those of us who had observations do it.
“Immediately the MD of FERMA presented the budget, a colleague was raising a motion for the approval of the budget and I raised a point of order. By parliamentary procedure, a point of order must prevail over any other matter. In trying to make my point of order, I saw that the person who moved the motion was behaving like the spokesperson for FERMA.
“The observation I made was very simple: first is the fact that in the analysis of the 2021 budget proposal that I have before me, of the 420 projects proposed, the southwestern area of which I am has the least allocation which is 48 and the minimum allocation, which is about 3 billion naira. That’s only part of it.
“Most of it is that the constituency that I represent, Ede-North / Ede-South / Egbedore / Ejigbo Federal Constituency, does not have a single project assignment out of 420 projects. Even in the entire state where I come from, the state of Osun, which is represented by nine members in the Chamber, does not have a single project assigned, out of a budget of N38.2bn proposed by FERMA.
“I felt like I should at least have a right to a hearing but unfortunately the person who was preventing that from happening is from Plateau State and I can see on this same budget, Plateau is receiving about 18 projects. Why wouldn’t you want someone who has nothing in their own state to raise a point of order and make this observation? This is unfair, unfair and goes against the spirit of the Nigerian Constitution.
“That was the point I was trying to make before he came up and the whole session came to a noisy conclusion.”
Salam further said that, “No. Certainly not, because if the budget passes, we would have to vote on the motion that was supposedly proposed by him. But like I said, it ended up being a noisy session. “
The deputy added that “The National Assembly should be tired of being called the Rubber Stamp Assembly. We are not; it’s supposed to be. If a ministry, department or agency brings a document, we must subject that document to close scrutiny.
“We must scrutinize it with the eye of the law, and with equity, equity and justice. That is what parliament should do, but that is what some people are trying to resist, because of what happened at this meeting. I think we should look at this document again and ask ourselves honestly: does this FERMA budget proposal reflect the spirit of the Nigerian Constitution and the budget that is supposed to bring uniform development to all parts of the country?
“For me, the answer is no. And if the answer is no, then we should go back to the drawing board. It is still a proposal; it is a bill before the National Assembly, which is subject to retouching. I hope that the committee, under the chairmanship of the Hon. Bamisile, will reconvene and address the concerns I raised. “
While reacting to the question about the rowdy session between the Committee members during the defense of the FERMA budget, the Chair of the House Committee on FERMA, Representative Femi Bamisile, who dismissed the accusations for bothering in the unfavorable allocation of road projects to the southwest and to the state of Osun. , raised by Salam, explained that the Committee has resolved to invite the Managing Director of FERMA, Engr. Nuruddeen Rafindadi on various issues raised by members.
“We needed to study the budget before approving it. I have told you this. This is the same as we said last year. You cannot bring us the budget on the day of the trip. These documents are voluminous. Sometimes they go up to 70 or 80 pages. Do you expect a member to read 80 pages by turning them?
“They will take the time to do that and that is why we asked them to come back today and when they came, they all had time to study the document and ask each other questions. There was a problem there when one of our members raised a point of order that their state did not have enough projects.
“I made it clear that if you have read the budget, you will see your state represented. I can tell you what each state has. I told the member the number of projects in his state. Unfortunately, he didn’t see it there. Even after I made my decision, I still allowed him to move his motion and made it clear to him that all the states carried forward.
“On Thursday, there was a notion that 11 billion naira had been invested in the budget. But after studying it for 72 hours, everyone, including those who moved the motion, were convinced that everything was going well with the budget, “he said.