Since 1999, billions of naira have been allocated to constituency projects. According to Budgit, constituency projects are meant to extend the dividends of democratic governance to the various constituencies of the federal legislators with a view to spurring grassroots development.
Based on available data, some legislators did implement their constituency projects. However, records also abound in which, a number of constituency projects running into billions of naira were never executed. A number of organisations have established these facts.
In its report, Budgit Tracka indicates that between 2009 and 2019, over N1 trillion was allocated to constituency projects in Nigeria as it tracked 15,859 constituency projects across 7,589 towns in Nigeria as of 2019. It reported the completion of 7,000 public projects across 26 states while over 200 projects worth billions of naira were either abandoned or uncompleted.
Just recently, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) accused Nigerian senators of diverting over N120 billion allocated to the 2021 constituency projects in their different jurisdictions. ICPC analysed the 2021 budgetary provisions across key sectors such as education, water resources, health, power, science and technology, environments, and agriculture and discovered that many projects were duplicated in just one budget cycle.
To understand the implication of that, assume that on an annual basis, about N50 billion worth constituency projects are not executed. In two decades, that would amount to N1 trillion of money wasted. This is just a modest figure
If in just a year, N120 billion worth of projects were diverted, how many projects would have been diverted from 1999 to date? To understand the implication of that, assume that on an annual basis, about N50 billion worth constituency projects are not executed. In two decades, that would amount to N1 trillion of money wasted. This is just a modest figure.
As if to worsen matters, Nigeria’s constituency projects are shrouded in secrecy. First, the recipient regions are not aware of the projects, and this stems from the fact that the projects did not emanate from them. Second, the time of executing the project is not known for them to oversee their implementation. Third, federal representatives are far away from the people they claim to represent.
With most of these legislators not having offices, the electorate only see them during the electioneering period. Afterwards, it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the people to see their elected representatives.
In advanced climes, it is not uncommon for representatives to influence the location of projects in their domains. At best, they will only ensure the projects are situated in the regions they represent. But here in Nigeria, the legislators will both influence and execute – a situation which gives room for shoddy jobs, and non-execution of projects on many occasions.
Why not calling for the outright cancellation of constituency projects, we are of the opinion that the processes of identifying the projects, approval and execution must be greatly improved upon and made more transparent. The current system is rather opaque in the process and gives a lot of room for shady practices.
Therefore, the starting point to addressing the opaqueness in constituency projects is by having the list of all projects to be executed on the website of the National Assembly. Each project must be attached to a community, the names of the contractors, their contact details and the costs of the projects must be stated. The information should also include the time the project will be executed.
Another approach that can reform the current system is that a project must have bearing on the community it will be situated. State and local government administrations are also involved in the execution of projects, especially in rural communities. Thus, it will amount to a sub optimal deployment and utilisation of resources if for political reasons, the same projects are implemented by local government, state and federal elected officials. This explains why the documentation of these projects is pertinent.
Constituency projects do not have to be restricted to drilling of boreholes, as there are many other ways these projects can be made complementary to existing projects in communities.
For instance, a primary healthcare centre in a community that lacks equipment can be equipped by legislators so long that their activities are well documented and the materials can be seen. This become imperative because of the many challenges that affect Nigerians, which contribute to the low life span of men and women in this country. Evidently, inadequate healthcare provision in the rural areas is one of those challenges.
Nigeria today faces food insecurity in spite of having a very vibrant youth population and fertile soils across the country. One of the challenges facing agriculture is absence of tools and improved seedlings. Constituency projects could be designed to provide improved seedlings to farmers in farming communities. It could also be about equipping schools that lack educational materials. We can certainly go on here.
Thus, constituency projects if they are to have meaningful impacts on the lives of Nigerians must be devoid of the various shenanigans which currently attend them. There must also be a more public-spirited approach on the part of the legislators.
This is with a view to ensuring that constituency projects serve their ultimate end – the delivery of democratic dividends to the Nigerian populace, most of whom are currently short-changed by the antics and self-serving attitudes of our politicians.