The war of words between Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola and the Senate is not abating any time soon. On Wednesday, the senate during plenary had a debate over the comments made by Fashola that they do not have the constitutional powers to alter the 2017 budget which the three ministries he oversees submitted to them for screening.
The Senate had slashed the funds allocated to some of the projects put in 2017 budget and Fashola had kicked against it. During the debate, Senator Dajuma Goje who is the Chairman of the senate committee on appropriation, faulted Danjuma for challenging their authority to adjust the 2017 budget.
He asked Fashola to resign if the workload in the Ministries he is supervising is too much for him and that Fashola should not mistake the National Assembly for the Lagos state Assembly where as a former governor of the state, he can wield some power. Fashola who is in Zimbabwe has now reacted to Goje's comment.
In a statement released by his media aide, Hakeem Bello, Fashola said Danjuma's comments were unparliamentary. Continue to read the statement The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN on Thursday said it was regrettable that the Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje would seek to trivialize the issues he raised about the unilateral slashing of the budgetary allocation to key national infrastructure by the National Assembly.
In a Statement personally signed by the Minister and sent in from Zimbabwe where he is currently attending the 35th Annual General Meeting of the Shelter Afrique, Fashola said he was responding only for the purpose of refocusing attention to the issues at stake. According to the Minister, the Senator’s reference to the patriotism of legislators should not be spoken but demonstrated as regards his calls for a more developmental budgeting approach. Explaining this further, the Minister declared:
“In this context, it is left for Nigerians to then decide whether budgeting for constituency roads is more patriotic than budgeting to complete the Kano-Maiduguri Road that connects 5 states, the Lagos-Ibadan road that connects 3 states and helps to move food, imported goods and fuel across the country; or the 2nd Niger Bridge that connects the East and West geopolitical zones of at least 11 states together. “I will also leave Nigerians to judge whether it is more patriotic to budget for the Mambilla Power Project that will contribute to more power across Nigeria or reduce the budget to build street lights in legislative constituencies.”
The Minister noted that the response to the issues he raised certainly should not have been accusations of his blackmailing the Legislature or referring to those who shared his views as his “surrogates”. Reiterating his respect for the Parliament as a house where very vigorous debates about development should take place, Fashola advised Senator Goje to acquire the temperament for such debate and disagreement. “Let me reiterate that I see Parliament as a house where very vigorous debates about development should take place and it is important for Goje to acquire the temperament of debate and disagreement”. Decrying the Senator’s admonition that he should learn how to “behave” like a “Minister” and the reference to the Senate awaiting how he would be “handled” by the House of Representatives, the Minister declared, “ I think first that the language is unparliamentary and therefore not deserving of a reply”.
Noting that Goje’s faux pas gave a clearer insight into how the Senator and those who may be minded like him may be thinking having transited from the Executive arm to the Legislative arm , the Minister called for caution. ” It seems that it is such people who need a behavioural prescription about legislative function,” Fashola said. According to the Minister, a good budget remains a necessary tool for the Executive to do its work because when services are inadequate, the members of the public often look to the Executive arm for answers. “ I need a better budget as a tool to do my work and that is why l am speaking out”, he said.