Minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, is under fire for declaring recently that the National Assembly, (NASS) is complicit in the embarrassingly deplorable state of roads in Benue South Senatorial District, particularly Otukpo town.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru who is firing at Fashola on all cylinders says it makes no sense to hold the National Assembly responsible for the deplorable state of roads whether in Benue State or any part of the country.
Alarmed by the state of roads in the area, the Idoma elite have recently been taxing themselves in a self-help process. Some money has been collected towards doing something at all about the embarrassing road network, no matter how little. But the anger over the issue made leaders of thought to also consider talking things over directly with the Minister how such could be the reality. That approach was what the leaders implemented in the visit to the minister where Mr. Fashola made comments that are now being challenged by the NASS
Although the NASS says the upper chamber would not want to engage in any unnecessary altercation with the Minister, they, however, consider it necessary to speak up because, in their view, the issue of roads infrastructure is too important and controversial a matter to be ignored where the National Assembly has been fingered by a serving Minister. This, the NASS says is necessary in order that the two arms of government do not become seen as working at cross purposes in the course of delivering good governance to electorates.
The NASS is particularly concerned with what Fashola has been reported as telling retired Generals and ‘other leaders of thought’ from Benue South Senatorial District who took a bag of grudges to him last week that the NASS is the spoiler in the case of deplorable roads in that part of Benue State.
The NASS which says it must set the records straight is calling the claim disturbing and erroneous because, by its own account, the National Assembly approved the request for 265, 868, 037,093 billion Naira for capital expenditure by the Executive for the 2020 fiscal year. Not only that, the NASS is also saying through its spokesperson’s press statement on Sunday in Abuja that a revised allocation of 256, 734,983,667 billion Naira the Executive later brought to it was also appropriated and that “as we speak, even in the budget proposal for 2021, the Executive proposed a capital expenditure of 363, 266, 425, 976 billion Naira”. The NASS spokesperson is, therefore, wondering where the Works Minister got his figure of a proposed sum of N600b proposed by his ministry but not approved by the National Assembly.
It is not the complicity of the NASS in the roads crisis in the area that is making the legislature losing sleep. It is also the Minister’s inference that the National Assembly gave priority to constituency projects over other projects and the interpretation of same as an attempt to incite Nigerians against the Legislative arm of government that is at stake.
“It should be emphasized, therefore, that never has allocations specifically meant for other projects been diverted to constituency projects as the later have specific allocations in the budget,” said the spokesperson who gave a breakdown of road constructions which are supposed to be on-going in Benue South Senatorial Districk as given by the spokesperson are Oju -Adum Okuku road at N 91,180 000; Otukpo Township road at N357 200, 000 and Oju/Loko – Oweto bridge at a cost of N357, 200, 000.
Neither Monday Morgan, the retired Air Force chief and leader of the new activism in the area nor any other leaders of thought have joined this fray. The Benue South Senatorial District has produced two prominent members of the NASS since 1999. The incumbent Senator for the District, Patrick Abba Moro, is the second while David Alechenu Mark was the first, from 1999 to 2019.