The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Thursday hit back at Senator Danjuma Goje, stressing that the legislator’s utterances and choice of words were “unparliamentary and therefore not deserving of a reply.”
The minister also said it was regrettable that Goje, the Chairman, Committee Chairman on Appropriation, would seek to trivialise the issues he (Fashola) raised about the unilateral slashing of the budgetary allocation to key national infrastructure by the National Assembly.
In a statement he personally signed and sent in from Zimbabwe where he was attending the 35th Annual General Meeting of the Shelter Afrique, Fashola said he was responding only for the purpose of refocusing attention to the issues at stake.
He said the senator’s reference to the patriotism of legislators should not be spoken but demonstrated as regards his calls for a more developmental budgeting approach.
The minister said, “In this context, it is left for Nigerians to then decide whether budgeting for constituency roads is more patriotic than budgeting to complete the Kano-Maiduguri Road that connects five states, the Lagos-Ibadan Road that connects three states and helps to move food, imported goods and fuel across the country; or the second Niger Bridge that connects the South-East and the South-West geopolitical zones of at least 11 states together.
“I will also leave Nigerians to judge whether it is more patriotic to budget for the Mambilla Power Project that will contribute to more power supply across Nigeria or reduce the budget to build street lights in legislative constituencies.”
The minister noted that the response to the issues he raised certainly should not have been accusations of his blackmailing the legislature or referring to those who shared his views as his “surrogates.”
Reiterating his respect for the parliament as a House where very vigorous debates about development should take place, Fashola advised Goje to acquire the temperament for such debate and disagreement.
He said, “Let me reiterate that I see parliament as a house where very vigorous debates about development should take place and it is important for Goje to acquire the temperament of debate and disagreement.”
Decrying the senator’s admonition that he (Fashola) should learn how to “behave” like a “minister” and the reference to the Senate awaiting how he would be “handled” by the House of Representatives, the power minister declared, “I think first that the language is unparliamentary and therefore not deserving of a reply.”
The minister urged those who had just transited from the executive arm to the legislative arm to be cautious.
“It seems that it is such people who need a behavioural prescription about legislative function,” Fashola said.
According to the minister, a good budget remains a necessary tool for the executive to do its work because when services are inadequate, the members of the public often look to the executive arm for answers.
“I need a better budget as a tool to do my work and that is why l am speaking out,” he said.
Last week, Fashola tongue-lashed lawmakers for cutting down the budgets of some infrastructural projects under his ministry, saying that the legislators had stark and worrisome understanding of budgetary process.