The National Assembly approved N22.89bn for the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency’s capital expenditure in the 2020 budget, checks by The PUNCH on Thursday revealed.
One of our correspondents also observed that in the 2019 estimates, N24.69bn was budgeted for the agency, which was set up in 2002 with the aim of maintaining the Federal Government’s roads.
FERMA’s budgetary allocations came to the fore on Thursday against the backdrop of poor roads in the country and the National Assembly’s huge N37bn budget for the repair of its complex.
But the House of Representatives on Thursday remained unrepentant and lashed out at the critics of the N37bn allocation for the repair of the National Assembly complex, saying they were uninformed.
However, groups, including the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, berated the lawmakers.
NECA said the Federal Government ought to have increased budgetary allocation to FERMA, education and other critical sectors.
NECA described the approval of N37bn by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), for the renovation of the National Assembly Complex as a misplaced priority.
NECA, through its Director-General, Mr Timothy Olawale, said the country had become a nation of contradictions that would leave most pressing economic issues, for other things whose economic contributions had been questioned.
He said, “On the backdrop of the allocation of N37bn for the renovation of the National Assembly complex, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association has expressed concern at the seeming misplaced priorities in government.”
The NECA boss noted that there were many roads which required urgent rehabilitation. He said, “The Apapa Port road has remained impassable, the Agbara Industrial Estate road remained a death trap and the Lagos-Badagry road among other critical roads and infrastructure in the country is begging for attention.”
He stated that rather than committing such an amount to renovate an edifice, it was expected that Government would adequately fund FERMA considerably by increasing its capital expenditure in the 2020 and increase allocations to education among others. “However, this is not the case, ” he lamented.
SERAP plans legal action to stop project
An anti-corruption advocacy group, SERAP, condemned the planned renovation of the National Assembly complex with N37bn.
The group, on its official Twitter handle, @SERAPNigeria, described the planned renovation as “another white elephant,” vowing that it would file a lawsuit to stop it.
It said the planned renovation “is antithetical to the constitutional oath of office (of the lawmakers).” SERAP said, “We’re suing to stop this wasteful and illegal spending.”
A human rights organisation, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, on its part, said the money would have been able to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians who were confronted with untold hardships due to a nonfunctional system.
The Executive Director of CHRICED, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, at a press conference in Abuja, said the money would have gone a long way in providing jobs for many unemployed youths.
Renovation of complex overdue – Reps
But the House of Representatives dismissed critics of the N37bn allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Benjamin Kalu, who spoke to one of our correspondents on Thursday, stated that rehabilitation of the building was long overdue.
He said ministries, departments and agencies under the executive arm of the Federal Government budgeted more for such projects without any public outcry.
N’Assembly in a mess – Reps
He said, “It is not about the criticisms. The criticisms might not be well informed. The people criticising might not be well informed. The issue is that the National Assembly Complex is in a mess and there is the need for more facilities to deliver on the mandate that is given to us by the constitution. A particular agency presented to us a budget of about N340bn, an agency under an arm of government, not a ministry. We are an arm of government, bigger than any ministry or agency or department.
“Whenever the issue of money comes up, Nigerians attack the National Assembly forgetting that this is a full arm of government. We oversight N10.6tn, we need facilities, gadgets and other things to get the job done, and that is the truth.
“During the budget defence (sessions), you would find most of them (lawmakers) using hand fans because the central air-conditioning system is not working. People who come for public hearings go to their various offices to make use of the toilet and come back. The ACs are not working in some of the (committee) rooms and people use hand fans in a place like the National Assembly. Can you see that in Aso Rock (Presidential Villa)? Go to the ministries and see the kind of offices that they stay in.”
Kalu also pointed out that the complex was being supervised by the Federal Capital Territory Administration.
Road maintenance: 2020 allocation won’t be enough, says FERMA
Meanwhile, FERMA in an interview with The PUNCH confirmed NECA’s position on its underfunding . It said its budgetary allocation for 2020 would not be enough.
The Head of Communications and Public Relations, FERMA, Maryam Sanusi, told one of our correspondents that the allocation was below what the agency required for road maintenance.
Asked if the 2020 FERMA allocation would meet the demands for road maintenance, Sanusi replied, “Not at all.”
She said besides road maintenance, FERMA’s capital expenditure included “but not limited to field office buildings, vehicle purchase and sundry equipment (light and heavy duty).”