Railway project in danger

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    BuhariA fresh crisis is brewing over the N6.06 tril­lion 2016 budget as the National Assembly has removed funds designated as counterpart fund for the coastal railway project as well as altered several other provisions made by the Executive.

    The Federal Government, according to the agreement with the Chinese government, was to provide a counterpart funding of N60 bil­lion, which the Presidency incorporated into the 2016 budget. It was learnt that the coastal railway project had been completely removed from the budget passed on March 22. Presi­dent Muhammadu Buhari is due to leave for China today, and the railways development is among infrastructural projects on which he would be seeking cooperation from Beijing.

    It was gathered that some key infrastructure projects of the Buhari adminis­tration were either completely removed from the budget passed to him for assent or were doctored.

    According to the source in one of the feder­al parastatal agencies, “the Executive is work­ing on two major rail arteries, among other rail projects, to service the northern and eastern part of the country – the Lagos-Kano line and the Calabar-Lagos line. “While the Lagos- Kano provision was left untouched, the Cala­bar-Lagos line was removed. The projects are to be funded jointly between the governments of China and Nigeria. It is one of the main rea­sons for the president’s trip to China. “Also, the amount proposed for the completion of the Idu-Kaduna rail project which has reached an advanced stage was reduced by N8.7bn, a de­velopment which will make it difficult for the project to be completed.

    “The other fundamental area noticed was in respect of completion of ongoing road projects. While the Executive provided for the completion of all major road projects across the country, the National Assembly reduced the amounts provided and, instead, included new roads which studies have not even been conducted. “The amounts provided by the National Assembly for the projects can neither complete the ongoing road projects nor the new ones proposed. At the end of the year, no significant progress would have been made.

    “The other is in the health sector. Proposals made for the purchase of essential drugs for major health campaigns like polio and AIDS, for which the store is fast depleting were re­moved and the amounts allocated to provision of ambulance, which the ministry did not ask for. “It was also observed that certain provi­sions made in the areas of agriculture and water resources to further the Federal Gov­ernment’s diversification project were either removed or reduced while the funds were moved to provision of rural health facilities and boreholes, for which provisions had been made elsewhere. “Because of these observa­tions, the president is engaging further with the leadership of the National Assembly to re­solve them and hopes that it would be resolved for his assent by the time he returns from his trip to China.”

    The source said the discrepancies were no­ticed during the emergency Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting held last Friday. -The Sun