President Muhammadu Buhari should not sign the 2016 budget without the inclusion of the N60billion Lagos-Calabar rail project, a federal lawmaker has said.
Rilwan Akanbi, an All Progressives Congress senator representing Oyo South, spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, opposing calls by Senate spokesperson, Aliyu Sabi, on Mr. Buhari to sign the budget as passed by the National Assembly.
Speaking for the Senate after Tuesday’s plenary, Mr. Sabi said instead of delaying the take-off of the budget, Mr. Buhari should send a supplementary budget capturing the N60 billion Lagos-Calabar rail to lawmakers later.
But Mr. Akanbi disagreed, arguing that since the project needed external funding, it should not be made to wait for any supplementary budget.
“If I were President Buhari, I would not sign the budget because of that rail project,” Mr. Akanbi said.
“It is a very important project. The project and that of Lagos- Kano are parts of things for which the President is seeking funding in China. The N60 billion sought for the project is just our counterpart funding.
“So, since the project involves external funding, it is time-bound and cannot wait for supplementary budget. Otherwise, we will be seen as unserious people to foreign supporter, China in this case.
“When the President returns from China, what I expect is that he should return the budget to us (National Assembly) with formal request for inclusion of the project and to any other issues. Amending budget should not take more than one week,” Mr. Akanbi said.
He noted that the Senate Committee on Land Transport chaired by Gbenga Ashafa included the project in its report after Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, sent his ministry’s supplementary proposal but regretted that the appropriations committee removed the project.
“They (Appropriations Committee arrogated too much power to themselves. Why should they remove a project without respect for the concerned committee? Fine! It was omitted earlier but the Minister later brought it and the concerned committee approved the project. They should not have removed and included projects not even proposed at all without even feasibility reports.
“So, the President should return the project.”