N1 billion for Constitution review
A SUM of N37 billion has been approved by federal lawmakers for the renovation of the National Assembly complex.
Also endorsed as part of the Budget 2020 is N1billion to cater for the amendment of the Constitution. This is slated to begin early next year.
President Muhammadu Buhari on October 8, presented a N10.33trillion budget proposal to the joint session of the national assembly but lawmakers passed a N10.594 trillion estimate, an increase of N264 billion on December 5.
The N37 billion renovation cash is part of the N2.5trillion capital project provision which is to be carried out by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).
National Assembly Director of Information, Dr. Rawlings Agada, said only the FCDA could speak on the renovation of the complex and the amount voted.
Agada, who noted that the National Assembly’s edifice needed attention, wondered if N37 billion would be enough for the job to be done.
He said: “You know that the details of the budget bill are not out. So, speaking to you on it now would amount to jumping the gun. You should know that the Aso Rock Villa, the Judiciary, the Supreme Court and the Federal Secretariat are all tagged as special projects under the Federal Government. And the FCDA undertakes such projects on behalf of the Federal Government.
“If you ask me, I will tell you that you are asking the wrong person because it is FCDA that is in the picture of everything because that is their own budget and they should be speaking on what they want to renovate.
“We have made our proposal to them in terms of facility decay in the National Assembly which all of you are familiar with.
“The National Assembly needs a lot of work. I don’t think even that amount of money can take care of all those things because even the dome has been leaking and there is fear that if the repairs are not done, we might suffer greater problem in the future.
“I think the leadership of the National Assembly took note of that pursuant to the concerns raised by the management.
“That is just that because I don’t have the details of the budget but I am aware that there is a lot that needs to be done.
“Over time, the National Assembly management has been squeezing from the little that comes their way to repair things but anything that deals with physical infrastructure in terms of major repairs is usually captured under the Federal Government budget and it is done by the FCDA. So we cannot speak on that now. The details should come from them (FCDA).”
House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila had raised the alarm over the decaying National Assembly building.
Most of the amendments proposed to the Constitution by the Eighth National Assembly were rejected by President Buhari.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan is expected to inaugurate members of the Constitution Review Committee early next year to enable them conclude the assignment on time.
Some Senators are wondering what the shape of the 2020 Constitution amendment will be in view of some controversial bills – like the Hate-Speech Bill and the Social Media Regulation Bill – pending before the National Assembly.
The Nation gathered that apart from the N38 billion for the two projects, the alleged uneven distribution of zonal intervention projects in the 2020 budget is generating furore in the two chambers
Many Senators feel that they were “unduly sidelined” in the number and amount allocated for “discretionary projects” assigned to their constituencies.
Presiding officers of the Senate and those allegedly “favoured” by the leadership are said to have “huge sums” allocated to their constituencies while others claimed that they could barely attract projects of much worth.
It was also learnt that the N264 billion increase in the budget was created for some “discretionary constituency projects” allocated to constituencies.
The N264 billion is different from the N100billion already set aside in the appropriation bill for the same purpose by President Buhari.
A source said the N264 billion addition was specifically created to “accommodate and take care of discretionary projects” inserted into the fiscal document.
The source noted that “the understanding was that each Senator would be allocated a project worth N200 million while each of their counterparts in the House of Representatives would get a project to the tune of N150 million.”
According to him, “a cursory look at the budget recently passed by both chambers of the National Assembly shows that while some got mouth-watering projects, others got far less than the supposedly agreed amounts.”
He said some projects allocated to a Senatorial district in the Northeast by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development amounted to over N2 billion.
He listed the projects to include procurement of farm implements and accessories in the Senatorial district at the cost of N475 million and the construction of six culverts and drains at N143million.
Others, according to him, are the construction of six culvert and drains in two Local Government Areas (LGAs) at N144 million and construction of six culverts and drains in two other LGAs in the same state at the cost of N143 million.
He said the ministry also earmarked the sum of N900 million for the construction of rural roads in some selected LGAs within the same senatorial zone as well as another N200 million for the supply of farm implements, fertilizer and other empowerment items to farmers in all the villages and towns in the same senatorial district.
The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the source said, has a provision of N700 million for the installation of all-in-one solar powered street light across the eight LGAs of a Senatorial district in the Southsouth.
The sum of N100 million, according to him , was discovered to have been allocated to each LGA for project execution in the same district.
Again, he said that a Senatorial district in Northcentral represented by an influential Senator has N570miilion set aside for projects under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The projects as listed by the source are the provision of agricultural equipment for farmers 120/150 horse power of John Deer tractors at N200 million and the construction of 12kms rural roads at N120 million.
Others are the provision solar street lights across communities in the Senatorial district at the sum of N100 million and purchase of motorised boreholes, farm implements and input for farmers as well as the training and empowerment of youth and women in various agricultural value chain in in the district at N150 million.
He said the budget of the National Lottery Trust Fund domiciled in the Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs contains a provision for the empowerment of youths and women, purchase of motorcycles, sewing machines, refrigerators and grinding machines in another Senatorial district in the North-Central at the cost of N100 million.
Senate spokesman Godiya Akwashiki said the increase in the 2020 Appropriation Bill was due to additional revenue discovered during the budget consideration.
Akwashiki said the additional revenue was applied to relevant agencies of government for the betterment of the country.
The Senate spokesman said: “The Appropriation Committee did a very thorough job and discovered additional revenue that was not captured.
“So, they needed to apply it to ministries, departments and agencies. That was what brought about the increase.”