The House of Representatives on Tuesday assured Nigerians of its resolve to ensure that the controversial N11 billion road projects enlisted in the 2021 budget proposal of Federal Roads Maintenance Agency are evenly distributed to all the six geopolitical zones.
Hon. Yusuf Gagdi, who queried the controversial increase in the FERMA envelope, gave the update on the Committee’s position while reacting to allegations bothering on ‘hurried conclusion of the budget defence’ without taking members’ input, raised by Hon. Bamidele Salam (PDP-Osun).
While noting that the issue of N11 billion allegedly inserted into the FERMA budget proposal was addressed during the budget defence, Hon. Gagdi maintained that the Committee will stop at nothing to ensure the projects spread across all the six geopolitical zones if at all it would be adopted into the 2021 Appropriation Act.
He said: “Every member believed that, yes we agreed and we have not passed the budget.
“There was an envelope that was given to FERMA by Ministry of Finance through Ministry of Works, which is the supervising ministry of FERMA and I came to discover that the project was increased not by the National Assembly.
“Normally Ministry of Finance has enveloped budget because we operate envelope budget so I was aware of the fact that the envelope that was given to FERMA was not up to N30 billion.
“It was N20 something billion.
“And all of a sudden, I just discovered that they have submitted from the Ministry of Finance to the National Assembly over N30 something billion with an increment of about N11 billion.
“I raised that issue and I still stand on my feet that no, how did you increase it?
“It is even the right of the Budget Office to submit whatever they want to submit to the national Assembly.
“I won’t even call it padding because they have increased the money beyond the envelope of their Ministry.
“But my argument is this: Why will you increase about N11 billion to one state?
“It is not possible.
“Then the committee on FERMA agreed that the purpose of elective representative is to ensure equity and fairness to all the geopolitical entities.
“We now say you have brought this budget, that it is once sided.
“If you look at my comment very well, I tackle the fact that the budget is not balanced.
“So we must balance the budget as the people that have the right to do it in such a way that it resembles the interest of Nigerians.
“So my position on the N11 billion still stands that from somewhere between the Ministry of Works and Ministry of Finance, N11 billion was increased at inter-ministerial level in the budget of FERMA.
“And I still stand by it.
“I will give you the document, you will see it clearly.
“The predominant state that got that N11 billion that was increased, it is Imo State without any fear of political contradictions, but I don’t know who increased it.”
Speaking earlier after the budget defence session, Hon. Salam observed: “There was an attempt to rush the passage of the budget and prevent those of us who had observations from doing so.
“Immediately the FERMA MD presented the budget, a colleague was raising a motion for the adoption of the budget and I raised a point of order.
“By parliamentary procedure, a point of order should take precedence over every other matter.
“In the attempt to make my point of order, I saw that the person who moved the motion was behaving like the spokesperson for FERMA.
“The observation that I made was very simple: first is the fact that in the 2021 budget proposal analysis that I have before me, out of the 420 projects proposed, the South West zone, which I am from, has the least allocation, which is 48, and least allocation which is about N3 billion.
“That is just a part of it.
“The larger part of it is that the constituency that I represent, Ede-North/Ede-South/Egbedore/Ejigbo Federal Constituency, does not have a single allocation of a project out of the 420 projects.
“Even the whole of the state where I come from, Osun State, which is represented by nine members in the House, does not have a single project allocated to it, out of a budget of N38.2 billion proposed by FERMA.
“I felt I should at least have a right of audience, but, unfortunately, the person who was preventing that from happening is from Plateau State and I can see in this same budget, Plateau is getting about 18 projects.
“Why should he not want someone who does not have anything in his own state to raise a point of order and make this observations?
“This is unfair, unjust and 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 into a rowdy conclusion.”
When asked if FERMA’s proposal was eventually passed by the committee, Salam said: “No.
:Certainly not, because if the budget would be passed, we would have to vote on the motion that was purportedly moved by him.
“But like I said, it ended up a rowdy session.
“The National Assembly should be tired of being called a rubber stamp Assembly.
“We are not; we are not supposed to be.
“If a Ministry, Department or Agency brings in a document, we should subject that document to thorough scrutiny.
“We should scrutinise it with the eye of the law, and equity, fairness and justice.
“That is what the parliament should do but that is what some people are trying to resist, from what happened at this meeting.
“I think we should go back to look at this document and ask ourselves honestly: does this budget proposal by FERMA reflect the spirit of the Nigerian Constitution and the budget which is supposed to bring even development to all parts of the country?
“To 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 being tinkered with.
“I am expecting that the committee, under the chairmanship of Hon. Bamisile, will reconvene and address the concerns that I expressed.”
While reacting to the question on the rowdy session between members of the Committee during the FERMA budget defence, Chairman, House Committee on FERMA, Hon. Femi Bamisile, who dismissed the allegations bothering on unfavourable allocation of road projects to the South West and Osun State raised by Hon. Salam, explained that the Committee has resolved to re-invite the FERMA Managing Director, Engr. Nuruddeen Rafindadi, on various issues raised by members.
Bamisile said: “We needed to study the budget before we pass it. I have told them this.
“This is the same thing that we said last year.
“You cannot bring us the budget the same day of passage.
“These documents are voluminous.
“Sometimes, they go as high as 70 or 80 pages.
“Do you expect a member to be reading 80 pages as they pass it?
“They will take time to do that and that was why we asked them to come back today and when they came, everybody has had time to study the document and questions were asked.
“There was an issue there when one of our members was raising a point of order that his state did not have enough projects.
“I made it clear to him 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 have made my ruling, I still allowed him to move his motion and I made it clear to him that every state was carried along.
“On Thursday, there was this notion that N11 billion was thrown into the budget.
“But after studying it for 72 hours, everybody, including those who moved the motion, were convinced that all was well with the budget.