Lagos-Calabar rail project: NASS remain divided as Southern Senators reject budget

Following the heat generated from the alleged re-padding of the 2016 budget, Senators from the Southern part of the country have urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to assent to the bill unless the Lagos-Calabar rail project is included by the Appropriation Committees of both chambers of the National Assembly.

The Presidency had returned the budget to the National Assembly after it was discovered that some parts of the bill were removed or not included.

Both chambers of the National Assembly had, at different times, agreed to reconsider the bill.

However, a caucus of lawmakers from the South-West and South-South met on Wednesday, at different locations in Abuja and arrived at the conclusion that the budget should not be signed without the contentious Lagos-Calabar rail project.

A lawmaker, who spoke to Punch Newspapers, on the condition of anonymity, stated that the omission of the rail project by the Appropriation committee was an attempt to cheat the Southern part of Nigeria.

Senator Adesoji Akanbi, also reacting to the development, said: “Personally, I see no reason why the funds in the Ministry of Transportation should be moved completely to the Ministry of Works for the construction of roads which belong to state governments without engineering design.”

“We are seeking the reversal of this decision because the Calabar-Lagos rail project is very viable and it cuts across states in the South-South and South-West and it would galvanise the social and economic activities of the affected regions.”

“Apart from this, the project is a joint venture between Nigeria and Japan and it is time-bound. Any attempt to leave it out of the budget this year will affect the execution of the project.”

While rejecting the argument by the committee that the rail project was not included in the original budget, Akanbi stated that same problem arose when the Ministry of solid mineral presented its budget but it was quickly resolved after a supplementary budget was presented by the ministry.

“The situation is similar to what happened in the committee on Land Transport because the supplementary budget presented by the Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, is allowed in the parliamentary process.”

“Why should the money in the transportation ministry be moved to the ministry of works and voted for the construction of roads that have no engineering design and does not even belong to the Federal Government?”

Another senator from the south-south, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, stated that: “The Federal Government deliberately wanted the Calabar-Lagos rail project in the budget to balance the northern and southern interests; so, nobody can remove it.”

While another senator from the South-south in expressing disbelief, said: “Being a member of the appropriation committee, I can confirm that the project was in the budget submitted by the committee on land transport for inclusion into the main budget.”

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