BusinessDay

Executive, legislators differ on legality of over N1trn spent on constituency projects since 2004

Controversy trailing the legality of over N1 trillion spent so far on constituency and zonal intervention projects took a new dimension on Monday, as members of the executive and the leadership of the National Assembly differ on the initiative.

According to National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), N900 billion has been appropriated for legislators’ constituency projects between 2004 and 2013.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who declared open a one-day national summit on Political Representation and Constituency and zonal Intervention Services organised by NILS, observed that the constituency and zonal intervention projects were captured in the annual Appropriation Act passed by the National Assembly and domiciled with relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

Dogara said the idea of constituency intervention projects arose as a result of the demand by Nigerians for equitable, even distribution of infrastructural development projects, lopsidedness in the distribution of government amenities, which would offend the federal character principle and lead to concentration of resources in the hands of a few states or groups in Nigeria.

“These MDAs process for tender and bidding by contractors like any other project are awarded to qualified contractors in fulfilment of the Public Procurement Act, 2007,” Dogara said.

While urging all participants at this Summit to come up with “recommendations on whether the existing legal framework is sufficient or whether we need to introduce a CDF framework or to adopt any other model suitable for Nigeria,” Dogara said “processing of constituency projects, especially at the federal level do not involve cash payments or any other form of payment to a legislator.

“It is not included in allowances payable to any legislator. Contracts for any constituency project is not required to be awarded to any legislator.

“The duties of the legislator is simply to identify the location and the type of project to be sited. Once this is done, it is included in the budget of the relevant MDA by the National Assembly. The processing and award of contract for execution of the project is squarely the responsibility of the Executive branch.”

Speaking earlier, Babatunde Fashola, minister of works, power and housing, urged lawmakers at all levels of government to design legislative framework that would guarantee the sustainability of constituency projects even after they had left office.

Fashola expressed worry that over the years some constituency projects suffered neglect when the lawmakers do not return to power.

While stressing the need for the legislative arm to prioritise projects that benefit greater number of constituents, the minister said he was against the abysmal annual budgetary provisions for critical developmental projects such as Abuja-Lokoja highway in the 2016 budget.

“In making our submissions in the 2016 budget, we prioritised this road, which has been under construction since 2006, by proposing a budget of N10 billion for the completion of the four phases.

“However, what was returned was N5 billion for only one phase, yet this year’s budget contains billions allocated to constituency budgets,” Fashola said.

           

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