Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has tendered an apology to the National Assembly over his criticism of the federal legislature’s decision to introduce new, non-federal projects into ministry’s budget.
However, he maintained that his position on the matter remains unchanged.
The minister made his position known, on Friday, while appearing before the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Breach of Privileges. Asked to confirm or deny a newspaper report headlined “Fashola Attacks National Assembly”, the minister said he could not take responsibility for the headline, as he is neither a staff of the newspaper company nor its editor.
“For example, in a speech, where I said DISCOs (electricity distribution companies) need N20billion, the headline was cast to say: “Fashola Says DISCOs Need N220billion,” said the minister.
He explained that his intention was not to pick a fight with the National Assembly but to speak about development.
“I have made it clear before that I am not fighting the Parliament, but we disagree. And I have said disagreement does mean we should disagreeable and my position has not changed whether or not the Parliament can intervene in the budget. I made my position very clear from my interview and my response here. And if you have to read that interview, that is what you will see very clearly. I cannot say the parliament has no role to play in the budget,” he explained.
In a recent interview, Mr. Fashola admitted that the legislature could contribute to budget making, but disagreed that it can unilaterally change the budget- to the extent that some of the projects proposed would have become materially altered-after taking members of the executive arm of government through budget defense sessions and committee hearings.
Mr. Fashola listed some of his ministry’s projects so affected as including the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, Bodo-Bonny Road, Kano-Maiduguri Road, Second Niger Bridge and the Mambilla Hydropower Project.
These, he said, were materially altered in favor of boreholes and primary health centers, which never came up for discussion during the ministerial budget defense sessions before the National Assembly.
In their response to the minister, Messrs. Sabi Abdullahi and Abdulrazak Namdas, spokespersons of the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively, accused him of propagating half-truths and making fallacious statements. The spokespersons argued that Mr. Fashola should have known that they only interfered with projects that had concession agreements and private sector funding components.
They equally accused him of desiring to hold on to such projects, so that he could continue to award contracts and that he wanted to incite Nigerians against the National Assembly.
The Ad hoc Committee, headed by Mr. Aliyu Sani Madaki, is expected to report to the House in two weeks.