The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had an extraordinarily long meeting which lasted for two consecutive days this week. The meeting was, as usual, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari. There were feelers that the meeting would be interesting given an earlier unofficial information that there were over fifty memos to be considered by the Council from various cabinet members.
Mallam Garba Shehu, in his introductory remarks heralding briefings from four ministers including those of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu; Transport, Rotimi Amaechi and the Federal Capital Territory; Muhammed Bello, stressed that government was in a giving mood and had, as such, approved projects designed to bring succor to the people.
Shehu has said “As you may have noticed, it is an extraordinarily long meeting. We’re just finishing now and the meeting just went half way through and so FEC will resume tomorrow. There is a season of giving and don’t be surprised that government is considering giving so much to Nigerians in terms of service. There have been approvals for a number of clusters of projects in sectors. Works and Housing, Water Resources, Transportation FCT and some others. Actually, the whole cabinet would have been here with you but I’m sure that in due course you will get to hear from them. And more will be done tomorrow.”
The kernel of the briefing was the approval of projects totaling N377.6 billion in the the three ministries and the FCT. Though the government had been awarding contracts in the past, the Buhari’s administration has always drummed it up into people’s ears that it prioritizes completion of all ongoing projects than initiating fresh ones only to abandon them later as done in the past.
A cursory look at the projects okayed by FEC shows that the President has not deviated as most of them were to be completed with variation proposals approved.
But the flurry approvals at the twilight of 2017 by the Council has attracted curious criticisms among the populace. Like the allegation that trailed the $1 billion security support fund approved by the governors from the Excess Crude Accounts (ECA), some opposition elements have alleged that the government approved those contracts in order to raise funds for the 2019 general elections.
Their argument is that the government should actually be winding down and allow all the outstanding projects in the 2017 budget be captured in the 2018 appropriation.
Some hold the view that notwithstanding the fact that the projects were captured in the 2017 appropriation, there are possibilities that money may not be made available for the contracts before the end of the year. They argue that such funds appropriated for these projects are supposed to be returned to government coffers as unspent funds with the projects captured in the 2018 budget.
But considering the slow pace of work on the 2018 budget by the National Assembly, there is the possibility that the 2017 budget may have to be rolled over, at least, into the first quarter of next year. With the development in the National Assembly which has suspended consideration of the 2018 Appropriation Bill, with the Senate requesting for details of performance of the 2017 budget, the probability of getting the 2018 budget passed by the 31st of December remains a mirage.
A responsible government must continue to execute infrastructural projects that will transform the lives of the people without the encumbrances of legislative process. Anything otherwise would amount to a shut down of governance.
Critical infrastructural projects like Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano, Efire-Araromi-Aiyede-Aiyela road to connect Ondo and Ogun State and Enugu-Onitsha highway, the Amansia section are too germane to the nation’s economy to be ignored.
Also the approval for completion of the Goodluck Jonathan Way in the FCT that links traffic from Keffi-Nyanya into the city would held decongest the Nyanya axis and allow free traffic in that corridor. Same goes for the development of the infrastructure in the Wasa Resettlement site in the FCT.
Shehu, in his summary statement wrote “A robust roads infrastructure which just entered a higher trajectory is, in the vision of the Buhari administration, the key to increased efficiency of the movement of goods, persons and services across the country. It will boost investments and create jobs. These are things that we need to do to kickstart the economy.
The first two years of the government have witnessed a drastic reduction of the number of stalled road projects and the commencement of new ones all over the country. At the rate it is boosting infrastructure investments, roads, rail and power, the Buhari administration has undoubtedly found the road to glory.”