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Thursday, 17 November 2016

FG Finally Succumbs to National Assembly's Demand as It 'Quietly' Begins Release of N100bn for Constituency Projects




There are indications that the presidency may have finally succumbed to the demands by members of the National Assembly for the release of N100 billion meant for constituency projects before they consider and approve any request from the executive arm of government.

According to ThisDay, about 50 per cent of the constituency funds have been quietly released through the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, National Commission for Refugees and other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government.

It would be recalled that the lawmakers had insisted that funds for the constituency projects must be released to them which many believe was why several legislative approvals sought by President Muhammadu Buhari have suffered defeats or delays in recent weeks, particularly the request for the $30 billion external borrowing plan, the 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), and virement of N180 billion in the 2016 budget.

A National Assembly told ThisDay that the federal lawmakers had secured commitments from the presidency for the release of the funds.

“Recall that the Senate President met with the president several times last week. So the commencement of the release of the funds would smoothen the path for the approvals being sought by the executive,” a source told THISDAY.

The source, however, noted that while the lawmakers may soft pedal on their initial stance, many of them remain sceptical that the funds would be completely released by the finance ministry.

“The sour relations between both arms of government lingers, so both view each other with suspicion and do not trust each other. Many of the lawmakers are however not convinced that all the money will be released, particularly when considering utterances of the executive.

“Maybe only some lawmakers will eventually benefit,” the source explained.
Also, another source confirmed that constituency funds were being released, however noted that the executive arm of government is currently making efforts to repair its fractured relations with the legislature.

“Before now, only Dogara (Speaker) and Gbajabiamila seemed to be the sort of balancing forces in the legislature, but obviously the Senate carries more weight.

“If the president cannot have his men there, he has to find a way to work with whoever is there. The House alone cannot pass his requests,” the source said.

Many have suggested that the latest passing of a motion by the House of Representatives mandating its Committee on Appropriation to consider the request for the virement of N180 billion indicates that the lawmakers might have been appeased.

Also, the Senate yesterday commenced legislation on the president’s request for virement of N180.8 billion from the 2016 budget.

Accordingly, the Senate mandated its Committees on Appropriation and Finance to expeditiously treat the president’s request and submit its report within one week for final approval.

Buhari had asked the National Assembly to approve the virement of N180,839,254,439 billion from N500 billion appropriated for the Special Intervention Programme in the 2016 budget to finance other key projects.

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