The dream of having the second Niger Bridge, a gateway to South East region, has been threatened again going by reports.
The construction of the bridge has remained a mirage as successive governments have consistently broken their promises to construct it.
The second Niger Bridge was supposed to relief the aged and over used Niger bridge.
Determined to do the project, the current government awarded the contract for the second Niger Bridge to Julius Berger (Nig.) Ltd. at a total cost of N14.4 billion.
The existing Niger Bridge was inaugurated on January 4, 1966 and had been severely overstressed and its continued serviceability is not guaranteed.
The idea of a Second Niger Bridge started way back in the late 1970s but its realisation is delayed by several challenges.
The promise by the current administration to commence the project is again hitting the rocks caused by alleged National Assembly’s tinkering with the provision made for the bridge in the 2017,
The national assembly is reported to have reduced the budget of the 2nd Niger bridge from N15 billion to N10 billion even after the cost had been defended and agreed on.
Reports say that Julius Berger, the contractor, has mobilised to site but awaiting the green light to commence work.
Mr Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, raised alarm on the reduction of the cost for the budget along with alteration of budgets for some other key projects.
He said instead of allowing the budget to go, the National Assembly has reduced the budgets of critical projects of the ministry and inserted projects that have nothing to do with the ministry.
He alleged that NASS inserted projects outside the purview of his ministry in the 2017 Appropriation Act by the National Assembly.
Fashola, a senior advocate, said it was unfair to the Executive arm for the inclusion of such projects after public hearings on the budget and defence of the fiscal estimates by the ministries.
“What I have in my budget now is primary healthcare centres, boreholes,’’ he said at an interactive session with editors on Thursday.
“That was the meeting we had with the Acting President and that was the reason why the budget was not signed on time.
“We were ask to complete those abandoned projects; the budget of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced by the National Assembly from N31 billion to N10 billion.
“We are owing the contractors about N15 billion and they have written to us that they are going to shut down.
“Also, the budget of the 2nd Niger bridge was reduced from N15 billion to N10 billion and about N3 billion or so was removed from the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road budget.’’
Fashola added: “Everybody is complaining about power supply but they also cut the budget for Manbila power project and the Bodo bridge that connects the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Station was also cut and all these were also discussed.
“If after we have defended the budget and we had gone and the legislature unilaterally changed the budget, what is the purpose of deliberation?’’
According to Fashola, it is unfair to Nigerians after public hearings were conducted with tax payers’ money and consultations with the lawmakers only for the budget to be altered, cut or padded.
The minister said that apart from the 200 uncompleted roads he inherited from the previous administration, the lawmakers added100 roads.
“These roads are not federal roads and some of them do not have designs, how do we award roads that were not designed irrespective of the power you have?
“It is unconstitutional for the National Assembly (NASS) to legislate on state roads.
“A budget is an estimation plan that set in motion what is to be spent, how much will be borrowed and how much will be collected.
“The executive controls all the machinery for collecting taxes and other revenue with relevant data from the Ministries of Finance, Physical Planning and the Budget Office and others.
“I am not saying that the legislature cannot contribute to the budget, but I hold the view that it cannot increase the budget because they do not collect the revenue with which to run or implement the budget,’’ the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quotes the minister as saying.
Fashola, who held sway as Lagos State Governor between 2007 and 2015, however, said the National Assembly “might mean well and not do the right.’’