- Probes NPA over alleged $3b fraud
Strong indications emerged on Wednesday that the rift between the National Assembly and the Presidency over the handling of the 2017 budget might have deepened.
This is because the Senate Committee on Appropriation has asked the Works, Power and Housing Minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, to resign if he could not cope with the responsibilities of his office.
The senate urged Fashola to throw in the towel after the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje, briefed the whole house on the utterances of Fashola.
But the upper chamber of the National Assembly said it would await the outcome of the meeting of the minister with the House of Representatives before taking a final decision on him.
The minister and the National Assembly have been squabbling after the passage of the 2017 budget, as Fashola alleged that the National Assembly altered the document unconstitutionally.
He had also hinted that there was nothing wrong if the executive submitted the issue for interpretation to the Supreme Court to define the powers of the National Assembly regarding appropriation bills in Nigeria.
He had insisted that the National Assembly erred by altering the figures in the appropriation bills.
Goje had raised a point of order, drawing the attention of the chamber to the statements credited to Fashola on the role of the National Assembly on the 2017 budget, while the lawmakers were on Sallah recess.
He advised Fashola to resign, if it becomes too cumbersome for him to effectively manage the three ministries under him.
“I advise Fashola to remember that he is now a minister and should behave like a minister. He is not a governor, and this National Assembly is not Lagos State House of Assembly.
“This is assembly made up of very patriotic Nigerians; very experienced Nigerians. Many of them have done his job; many were in government before him.
“Fashola should know that in dealing with the National Assembly of Nigeria, it is not Lagos State House of Assembly.
“If his job is too much for him because the ministries are too big for him and he cannot adjust, then he should do the honourable thing and resign.
“But no amount of blackmail or propaganda by him or his surrogates will stop this National Assembly from discharging its duties in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We have sworn to uphold and protect this constitution, and we will do this to the end of the life of this assembly.
“For now, I will cease fire and watch how the House of Representatives will handle it. If it is well handled there, then we leave it with them; if the House is not satisfied and they pass it to us, then we take it over.”
In his remarks, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki said: “The spokesman of the Senate has spoken on this matter and the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations has also spoken on it. I am happy that the House of Reps has also taken up this matter.
“I want to advise those who are in government to be responsible. The cabinet members of the Federal Government must always speak from a national point of view and in the interest of all Nigerians.
“We will definitely wait for the outcome of his appearance before the House of Representatives before further contribution can be made on it”.
The Committee on Power suggested that defaulting agencies of government regarding the electrocution of over 30 persons last April at a football viewing centre in Calabar, Cross River State should be probed.
The panel said it was sad that those agencies which were supposed to ensure due diligence to secure lives simply failed to do their job.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate mandated its Committee on Marine Transport to investigate a $3 billion fraud allegation against the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
The allegation was raised yesterday on a Point of Order moved by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the lawmaker representing Delta Central Senatorial District.
Omo-Agege said the alleged fraud was in connection with the activities of the Joint Venture Enterprises of the NPA, namely, the Lagos Channel Management, the Bonny Channel Company, and the Calabar Channel Management Company Limited.
He noted that both the Lagos Channel Management and the Bonny Channel Company were established in August 2005 for the management and routine maintenance dredging of Lagos and Bonny navigation channels, while the Calabar Channel Management Company Limited was established for the management and capital dredging of the Calabar channel.
The lawmaker said the aforementioned companies were established to operate a public-private partnership (PPP) model and to reduce financial burden on the Federal Government. But the NPA has spent over $1billion and $2billion on the Lagos Channel Management and the Bonny Channel Company respectively from 2005 till date.
He said that despite the huge expenditure, significant dredging is yet to begin on the Calabar channel despite that it is an economic gateway to the North Central and North East geo-political zones of the country.