Osinbajo, Dogara seek resolution 2016 budget impasse

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A resolution to the budget crisis may be on the way following disclosures in Abuja yesterday that a team of negotiators led by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, for the Executive; and federal lawmakers, led by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, met in Abuja Wednesday and concluded that the details will be readjusted to pave way for an assent by President Muhammadu Buhari.

It was not clear yesterday which details were to be righted, but a source in the House of Representatives sounded optimistic that the budget document will be signed in the new week, even as the Senate continues to insist that what it passed remains the document to be signed by the President.

The new position is coming out just as it emerged that the Speaker may have indeed rejected a planned allocation to projects to his constituency, but it was pushed through by other interested parties in the House Appropriation Committee to justify projects inserted outside what was agreed with the Executive Arm of government.

National Assembly sources said Dogara had actually written a letter to the Committee that N2.8 billion of the N3 billion set aside under the Zonal Intervention programme for presiding and principal officers of the National Assembly for projects in their constituencies be waived for him and used for other capital projects.

The balance of N200 million, he advised, should be distributed for constituency projects of House members.

Buhari had proposed N60 billion in the 2016 Budget estimates for constituency projects, but the amount was upped to N100 billion by the lawmakers, who though reduced the President’s total budget figure from over N6.07 trillion to a little over N6.06 trillion, tinkered with the details in a manner that irked the Executive which raised eyebrows and asked for explanations.

One of the explanations it sought was how N50 billion put in as counterpart funding for a Chinese loan for the coastal railway line from Lagos to Calabar went missing. This arterial rail project is one of the reasons Buhari led a delegation to China to get a soft loan from the China EXIM Bank.

Yesterday, a National Assembly source confirmed that following the mandate from the House for its leadership to interface with the presidency to find a solution to the budget impasse, the Speaker met with Osinbajo and some ministers on Wednesday night.

The source disclosed: “Details of areas of concern were noted so it will be reworked. This will not require that the budget document goes back to the chambers.”

“When you are passing a budget, you check the subheads, the total figures, but it is the committee that works on the details to come out with the clean copy. It is being done already.”

“We are aware lawmakers are angry with the chairman of one of our committees that allocated N4 billion to his constituency. It is not that he allocated to the Speaker’s constituency.”

“The zonal intervention that is allocated to presiding and principal officers is statutory. What initially came to the Speaker’s constituency is N3 billion, but he rejected it, and wrote to the committee that the zonal intervention for his constituency be moved to other projects so as to free more resources for capital projects.”

“He actually rejected N2.8 billion, but he said the balance be reallocated for members’ constituency projects.”

“He was shocked and surprised when he saw the details and saw that it was put back for his constituency by the committee, apparently to justify the over N4 billion in chairman’s own constituency. He has asked that the money be removed as he directed earlier.”

When we sought confirmation of the meeting from the spokesman to the Vice President, Mr. Laolu Akande, he said he did not know if such a meeting took place between his principal and the lawmakers, but promised to get back with information.

His response was being awaited as at press time.

 

 

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