ABUJA, NOVEMBER 7, 2016 – Senators’ anger at the non-implementation of the controversial N100 billion constituency projects is a reason the 2017 budget may suffer a delayed passage.
Last week, senators refused to take even a formal look at the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF\FSP) sent by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Constituency projects are tasks marked for execution by federal lawmakers every budget year. They are supposed to be their ways of giving back to the electorate. Lawmakers also use them as a campaign pitch for a fresh term.
The management of the projects, however, has been abused in the past. Many constituencies are littered with uncompleted jobs. In some cases, projects were never even executed.
This year, many lawmakers are furious that they were persuaded to pass the 2016 budget on the strength of a promised execution of the projects, which, two months to the end of the year, remains undone.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, David Babachir, was said to have infuriated the lawmakers when he told them the projects could not be executed due to lack of funds. Other sources said whistleblowing by the suspended chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, aided the decision by the Executive to avoid the projects.
Jibrin had disclosed that much about the projects was fraudulently inserted in the 2016 budget, even though he also planted projects running into billions of naira for his Bebeji\Kiru federal constituency.
A Federal Executive Council (FEC) source disclosed, on Sunday, in Abuja that the MTEF/FSP was painstakingly prepared by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning before it was submitted to the Federal Executive Council for approval and onward presentation by the Presidency to the National Assembly.
He denied that the MTEF/FSP was “thrown out”, “rejected” or “dismissed” by the Senate, saying: “engagements with the relevant bodies are still ongoing.”
He said: “On the incident of Thursday, November 3, it was the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, and not the Senate that said the MTEF/FSP was empty. The document was not before the Senate on that day, was not listed on the Order Paper, and therefore not discussed or debated.
“Ndume only drew the attention of the Senate, through a Point of Order, to a publication in a newspaper, which quoted the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, as blaming the National Assembly for delay in the presentation of the 2017 budget.
“Ndume had frowned on the blame game, saying it was meant to incite the public against the National Assembly. Of course, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, intervened and said he contacted the minister when he saw the publication and the minister insisted he never spoke with the newspaper or its reporters, and never said so anywhere else.”
Last week, Udoma had issued a statement countering Ndume’s position that he snubbed the upper legislative chamber.
He expressed surprise at the accusation, which also said he refused to turn up for a scheduled meeting on November 1, 2016.
This came as Jibrin told journalists at the weekend that sessions called by the National Assembly leadership to meet ministers were avenues for corruption.
Since his suspension, Jibrin has repeatedly squealed on how principal officers and members of the House siphon billions of naira from the Federal Government.
The minister’s statement acknowledged receipt of the letter from Ndume inviting him for a meeting with the leadership. Udoma said the meeting was eventually shifted by an agreement, wondering why Ndume would take to the floor to say he failed to turn up, when he (Ndume) was aware the meeting had been rescheduled.