Sunday 18 December 2016


Constituency project is perhaps the most talked about issue in the relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government in Nigeria.
On a yearly basis, billions of naira is appropriated to enable legislators in the National Assembly and across the 36 states of the country carry out interventionist projects in their respective constituencies. In the 2016 national budget, N100 billion was voted for the constituency projects of the 360 members of the House of Representatives and 109 senators. But this is one issue that has attracted diverse reactions from the different segments of the society. While legislators see constituency projects as avenues to bring developmental projects to their respective constituencies, critics think otherwise.
Critics particularly see the concept as an avenue of corruption and a tool used regularly by the legislators to blackmail the executive arm of government.
Some analysts say that usually when the executive wants anything from the legislature and the latter is not forthcoming, the former dangles the constituency project carrot.
Recently, indications emerged that the executive arm of government is using the release of funds for 2016 constituency projects as a bait to get the National Assembly to approve the $29.9billion foreign loan the government is seeking. The Senate has refused to approve the loan while the House of Representatives is yet to consider it.
Besides, one of the accusations against the legislators regarding constituency projects is that apart from nominating the projects, they equally nominates contractors, who after getting paid, settles the legislator and abandons the project.
Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo pointedly accused members of the National Assembly of corruptly enriching themselves through the constituency projects. Obasanjo wants President Muhammadu Buhari to probe funds that has been appropriated for constituency projects in the country in recent times.
Besides, the former president wants the government to stop funding constituency projects, which he describes as a “ veritable source of corruption.”
“We should not continue to live with the impunity and corruption of the National Assembly. Yes, I believe that something can and should be done. The president should ride on the crest of the popularity of what is happening in the judiciary to set up a highly technical team of incorruptible investigators to look into the so-called constituency projects of the past and the present and bring culprits to book…The so-called constituency projects is a veritable source of corruption. These constituency projects are spread over the budget for the National Assembly for which they are the initiators and the contractors, directly or by proxy, and money would be fully drawn, with the project only partially executed or not executed at all…
“Look at how the recurrent budget of the National Assembly, with the so-called constituency projects, has ballooned since the inception of this democratic dispensation. What were their budgets in the 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015?” the former president had said.
Like Obasanjo, elder statesman and former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Baralabe Musa believes that the constituency project is a means for lawmakers to line their pockets.  The former governor, who traced the concept of the constituency project in the country to the Second Republic, says that the constituency project is usually a sort of inducement by the executive arm of government to the legislature.
According to the former governor: “This constituency project came from the Second Republic. The idea of constituency project and everything behind it is corrupt, when you budget for an amount that is not going to be used for the issue it is meant for.
“It is an inducement for them to approve the budget. It is corruption.  The best thing is to scrap it.  To eliminate corruption, let the government scrap it.  Projects should not be tied to any legislator.”
However, members of the National Assembly disagree. The chairman, House Committee on Media, Hon. Abdulrasaq Namdas says the entire concept is misunderstood. He says it is unfair for anyone to accuse the legislators of pocketing funds meant for constituency projects.
Namdas, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) insists that the role of the legislators in the constituency projects is merely to identify the project.  He says once the projects are identified, they are domiciled in the relevant ministry or agency, noting that lawmakers neither nominate contractors nor execute the projects.

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