by Alexander O. Onukwue
He made observations that, as a Federal Minister, he was well entitled to make, and they came for him. In his response, he has taken no prisoners.
Babatunde Fashola’s response was long and bruising, fending off the personal attacks against him from the National Assembly. Here are five of the best quips from the riposte, and some attempt to help you understand what they mean.
1. “A budget is not cash. It is an approval of estimates of expenditure to be financed by cash from the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Finance has not yet released any cash for the Second Niger Bridge, so no money was returned.”
The Minister takes the National Assembly through a basic course in definition of terms, making the distinction between a budget as an estimate, and cash as money released.
2. “If the spokesperson was in tune with the Public Procurement Law which the National Assembly passed, he would realise that the Minister has no unilateral power to award such contracts whose values are in billions of Naira. All the new projects presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval were either federal roads requested by state governments or those put in the budget by the legislators to service their constituencies”
Can someone speak for the National Assembly but unaware of the laws passed by the same institution?
3. “It was a very basic principle of good planning to make provision for unforeseen contingencies.”
Can’t blame NASS much here; lawmaking does not really involve any good planning, does it?
4. “It shows the conflict between the Executive that wants to build big Federal Highways; Bridges; Power Plants; Rail; and Dams on one hand and Parliament that wants to do small things like bore holes, health centres, street lights and supplying grinding machines”
We can explain this: Legislators need to do just the minimum to get re-elected every four years, hence, the inclination to provide small gifts once in a while, to keep constituents happy enough, but hungry for some more little stuff. (Or not)
5. “Success should be defined by how many projects an administration is able to complete or set on the path of irreversible completion and not how many poorly funded contracts are awarded”
If only citizens held legislators accountable for how many completed national projects they personally have contributed to before granting them re-election.