The crisis over 2016 budget deepened on Wednesday at the National Assembly.

Photo: President Buhari, Udo Udoma and Yemi Osinbajo while sufing through the budget

Senators from the South Southern/South Eastern part of Nigeria asked President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold his assent on the 2016 budget.

The withdrawal will hold until the appropriation Committees of both chambers of the National Assembly include the Calabar - Lagos rail project in the budget.

Our correspondent gathered that Presidency had returned the document to the National Assembly to include the project in the 2016 budget already passed.

However, Senate through his spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi asked the executive to forget any amendment on the budget.

 The senator asked the Presidency to come with supplementary budget so that missing projects can be included.

However, Senators from South West and South South geopolitical zones met at their various caucus meeting on Tuesday night.

They agreed to resist any attempt to deny their people the viable project. 

While the South South, South East senators held their meetings at undisclosed locations Venue, the South West senators met at the residence of Senator Gbenga Ashafa. 

The lawmakers present at the caucus meetings confided that the call for the supplementary budget was an attempt to deny the south an opportunity to enjoy a viable rail project. 

Senator Akanbi Soji confirmed the position of the Southern senators in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja on Wednesday.

He said the APC caucus in the south west is solidly behind the position of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Gbenga Ashafa, over the issue. 

Speaking further, Akanbi said the signing of the budget now without the inclusion of the N60bn Calabar-Lagos rail project would not be in the interest of the people of the South West.

He said, "Personally, I see no reason why the funds in the Ministry of Transport should be moved completely to the Ministry of Works for the construction of roads which belongs to state governments without engineering design. 

"We are seeking the reversion of this decision because the Calabar - Lagos rail project is very viable and it cut across states in the South South and South West.

“It would galvanise the social and economic activities of the affected regions. 

"Apart from this, the project is a joint venture between Nigeria and Japan and it is time bound. 

“Any attempt to leave it out of the budget this year, will affect the execution of the project"

Akanbi faulted the argument of the appropriation committees that they could not accommodate the Calabar - Lagos rail project, because it was not included in the budget presented by Buhari.

He said it was not tenable because a supplementary provision was supplied. 

The Oyo South senator explained that similar situation happened in the committee of solid minerals.

That was when the rents on some of the ministry's properties were omitted in the budget presented. 

He said the officials of the ministry were asked to go and re-present a supplementary budget of N5m.

It was instantly included by the committee and presented to the appropriation committee and consequently accommodated. 

In his words, "The situation is similar to what happened in the committee on Land Transport.

“[It is] because the supplementary budget presented by the Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, is allowed in the parliamentary process.

"Why should the money in the transportation ministry be moved to the ministry of works and voted for the construction of roads that had no engineering design and does not even belong to the federal government?"

Also senator from the South-South geo - political zone, who attended the caucus of the zone but pleaded anonymity, said the Calabar-Lagos rail project was important.

According to him, it’s as important to the southerners just as the Kano rail project is as important to the northerners. 

He said, "The federal government deliberately wanted the Calabar - Lagos rail project in the budget to balance the northern and southern interest, so nobody can remove it. 


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