Again, it seems Nigerians will have to deal with the same budget padding that marred the 2016 budget as it has seemingly appeared in the 2017 budget as there is the presence of a strange vote in one of the estimates.
On Tuesday, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), denied knowledge of N2bn allocated to Regional Housing Scheme in the 2017 budget proposal of the ministry.
The minister, who appeared before the committee to defend the proposal, referred the lawmakers to the Ministry of Finance for information on the controversial item.
The item was numbered FMOW99934089.
“I know as much of it as you do,” Fashola told members of the committee.
The minister pointed out that he had no explanation on the N2bn allocation as it was discovered in the proposal after it was worked upon by the Ministry of Finance.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Barnabas Gemade, requested that the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, be invited to explain the insertion of the allocation.
The following conversation ensued between Fashola and Gemade:
Gemade: Finally, what is this provision of N2bn for regional housing scheme? What is regional housing scheme? Where is it taking place? What is happening? Have you seen it on Page 18?
Fashola: It is not our project. It came in from, I think, the Budget (Office). It is a Ministry of Finance initiative; saying that they want to do what they called ‘family homes’. It is not from us.
Gemade: Yes, but they have put it here; otherwise, we will not be in the position to accept it.
Fashola: I know as much of it as you do sir.
Gemade: But you are here to defend this budget in totality.
Fashola: That is why I have come. I am explaining to you now, sir, on how it comes into our budget. That is not what we submitted. We didn’t submit that proposal.
Gemade: So, will the ministry be kind enough to tell the people who put this in this budget to come forward and let us know?
Gemade: Let us know what is regional housing programme because government cannot be operated in secrecy.
Fashola: I think the committee, if you permit me to bring this suggestion…
Gemade: …should invite them?
Fashola: Yes, sir.
Gemade: But you know the people; we don’t know them.
Fashola: No, sir. We just said finance sir.
Gemade: Finance ministry?
Fashola: Yes sir.
Gemade: We will write to the minister.
Fashola: Please do sir.
Gemade: (Pointing to the committee’s secretariat) Write to the minister: We have seen this line, which costs N2bn. Let them send information here for us to know what it is all about.
Accusations and counter-accusations between the executive and the legislature had characterised the passage of the 2016 budget.
The crisis had pitted President Muhammadu Buhari against the National Assembly over alleged padding of the budget.