NEWS AND UPDATES

WELCOME SPEECH DELIVERED BY SENATOR ‘GBENGA B. ASHAFA, CHAIRMAN SENATE COMMITTEE ON LAND TRANSPORT, DURING THE 2017 BUDGET DEFENCE EXERCISE ORGANISED BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON LAND TRANSPORT , FOR THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION. HELD IN ROOM 305 SENATE NEW WING, ON TUESDAY 31ST JANUARY, 2017.

It is with a great sense of responsibility that I welcome you all to the 2017 Budget defence exercise organized by the Senate Committee on Land Transport. This exercise is held in fulfillment of our constitutional responsibility to oversight the Ministry of Transport and its departments and agencies involved in the Land Transport sector.

Ladies and gentlemen, since the commencement of this administration, today’s exercise would be the second of its kind. At our first outing, you will recall that we stated our resolve as a committee, to provide the required legislative support to the Executive in a bid to ensure the success of the Buhari led administration’s dream for our Land Transport Landscape. Our goal as it then was and indeed still is today, being the achievement of a better public transportation system for every Nigerian, particularly in the aspect of Rail transport.

The foregoing has remained our focus through the course of the outgone year. Few practical examples of our role have been our defence of the Calabar to Lagos Railway modernization project which led to its ultimate inclusion in the 2016 Appropriation Act on one hand as well as the Committee’s effort at the passage of the Railway Bill, 2016.

Distinguished Colleagues, Hon. Minister, as you are all aware, the thrust of the 2016 Budget is for “Recovery and Growth”. Therefore, we must work together to ensure that we consolidate on the achievements and performances already recorded in the past year, while critically interrogating all the challenges faced in the 2016 budget cycle as well.

Hence, let me seize this opportunity to congratulate the Hon. Minister and his team on the successful completion of the Idu to Kaduna rail line. We hope that in the current year, we would see more of those successful implementations of the capital projects in our budget.

However, I must express our collective reservation towards the Ministry’s inability to effectively commence the two largest projects in the 2016 Appropriation Act, despite the provision for counterpart funding having been made i.e The Calabar to Lagos and Lagos to Kano Railway Modernization Projects. These projects would have gone a long way in creating employment to the large number of unemployed Nigerians at the moment, thereby improving the economy.

Having stated the foregoing, we are determined to ensure that we painstakingly review the estimates before us. We are resolved to work together with Mr. Presidents mandate to curb waste and improve efficiency of Government spending. To this end, we will look for ways to interrogate the recurrent side of the budget estimates to ensure that it is as smart as possible while also ensuring that the Capital expenditure is channelled in the right direction.

In conclusion, transportation remains one of the core areas of our National life that affects both the lives of every Nigerian but also the economy of the Nigerian State. We must therefore ensure that at this moment in time when we have the power to positively influence the development of the Nigerian Transport Sector, we are not only heard, but seen to do so for the benefit of the Nigerian People.

Thank you and God bless.

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