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Lawmakers Ask Buhari To Probe How Over N70tr Budget Was Used In 10 Years

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Lawmakers of the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to probe how over Seventy trillion naira budgeted to the Executive branch of government was utilised in the last 10 years.

The lawmakers’ gave the charge during the debate on the motion of urgent national importance sponsored by Minority Leader, Hon Ndudi Elumelu.

Hon. Elumelu’s charge followed media reports credited to President Buhari that total sum of N1 trillion released for National Assembly constituency projects was a waste.

He also tasked the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to wade into the allegation.

In his intervention, Hon Toby Okechukwu, former Chairman, House Committee on Works in the 8th Assembly blamed the Executive for poor budget release for critical developmental projects such as roads.

According to him, out of the total sum of N220 billion appropriated for Federal Ministry of Works in 2019, a paltry sum of N45 billion has so far been released, hence queried how the country can get value from such sector.

“I understand that projects and policies of government goes through interrogation. When you say N1 trillion is released, it presupposes that the equivalent value of that money should be on ground.

“There is also a presupposition that this money is given to members. Our responsibility is to make laws and pass the budget and once that is done, it goes to the Executive and the execution is the responsibility of the Executive.

“On average, we have about 50 per cent of that money that has been released in the last ten years. The reason why we have so many abandoned projects in our communities is because of the lack of releases. You award a contract and you pay 50 per cent. What happens to the remaining 50 per cent. How can you complete them?

“I know that on the last 10 years, this House has appropriated an average of N7 trillion and that presupposes that you spent N70 trillion.

“In the 2019 budget about N220 billion was budgeted for roads and what was released was N45 billion. If you are expecting the value of N220 billion when you give N45 billion, I don’t know what you will see,” Hon Okechukwu inquired.

Speaking earlier, Hon Elumelu, who expressed disgust over the misleading information from the President and the ill-feelings generated within his constituency, argued that about 40 per cent of the fund has been released to the implementing agencies.

He maintained that members of House of Representatives and indeed the National Assembly are not contractors nor members of the Tenders Board of various implementing MDAs.

According to him, “it is painful that the agency that generated that information failed to state that while it is true that N1 trillion was budgeted in the last ten years, this money has not been released.

“I am not happy because the information is capable of giving me a bad name before my community. The ICPC that wrote this report failed to tell the truth of how much was actually released.

“When you say N1 trillion is budgeted like the President said, if that money was released completely, there will be value commensurate to the money. I wonder why the ICPC man failed to look at what was released.

“Why should ours be a subject of debate that they will tell Nigerians we received N1 trillion when that was budgeted, but not released. My message is that we should let them know that while N1 trillion was budgeted for constituency projects, by way of releases, we did not receive that because what was released was less than 40 per cent,” Hon. Elumelu stressed.

While ruling on the motion, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila who had earlier expressed displeasure over the report, said, “I think it is a breach of our collective privilege as a House and not one person.

According to him, “my concern is the unintended consequences of words spoken. These are words emanating from a report by ICPC. There could be unintended consequences that could come out of it. You put people’s well-being at risk

“I feel it is okay to use the National Assembly as the weeping boys. The fact is that there is the FOI bill. The ICPC could easily invoke their power of investigation and look at releases as compared to what was budgeted. The ICPC that made the report, I don’t think they will appreciate if the House, in the discharge of its constitutional responsibilities did an oversight on ICPC based on what was budgeted as opposed to what was released to them

“When you break an egg, it is going to be difficult to put it together. I will use this medium to send this message across to ICPC and other agencies to do their work of investigation well. There is a difference between money budgeted and money released. It is as simple as ABC,” Hon Gbajabiamila noted.

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