The Hub

November 4, 2010

Constituency projects, whose projects?

By josef Omorotionmwan
THERE  is a general observation among our clubs and associations. When celebrating their anniversaries, they would buy a bag of rice, a bag of  toilet tissues and 10 yam tubers, all costing some N10,000, as gift items meant for an orphanage.

The club would proceed to the television house, where it would be made to pay about N30,000 for coverage of the presentation.

We ask, where is the philanthropic spirit, if you are paying N30, 000 to the TV station to cover your presentation of some abstract items of N10, 000 to the needy? Is it not clear that the club is only interested in the publicity?

A philanthropic spirit would dictate that you present the entire N40,000 to the orphanage without asking for any publicity.

A time will come, when the television station will say to such a club, we refuse to be used for your type of malignant tokenism; as it were, enough of this case of benediction being longer than mass.

But do you know that this is exactly what your representatives in Abuja are providing with the so-called constituency projects?

Who says elections are not good, when, indeed, they are the only devices that are capable of pulling some seemingly docile, deaf and dumb politicians from their shelves?

A man would claim to be representing his people in Abuja and for four long years, he would not make his inaugural speech at the National Assembly.

Really, his people have no way of knowing if the man got to Abuja. What prevents say an Edo State Federal legislator from getting to Osara, pick up a steady job and report to Abuja only occasionally to collect the jumbo thievery, which they call allowances?

We are also reminded that in this digital age, such allowances are automatically credited to their accounts and such sums can be accessed on-line in any part of the world. So, why leave Benin City at all?

Rather, what prevents you from remaining permanently in Archipelago for four years? Nothing, absolutely nothing!

Every election year, legislators, even the “Dundee United” among them rush forward and begin to show-case their achievements in the name of constituency projects. What are constituency projects? Whose projects are they? Clearly, a definition of those amorphous projects is impossible.

All we can do is to attempt some descriptions. They are clearly an aberration. To the extent that they have no basis in law, they remain a bundle of illegalities and unconstitutinalism. It is equally fraudulent for any legislator to claim them as his projects or his personal achievements.

According to the literary theory of our Constitution, the National Assembly as the legislative branch of our national government is to make policy while the executive branch is to administer or execute the policy. Any matter on the interpretation of the Constitution and other laws are to be referred to the courts.

Although these divisions are not made into any watertight compartment, it was never the intention of the Constitution that any branch of government should relinquish its assigned functions to any other branch. At no time did the Constitution intend that the National Assembly should begin to execute the laws it makes.

The doctrine of checks and balances was enshrined in our Constitution to ensure that no particular branch of government has too much powers concentrated in its hands because the concentration of too much powers in any branch would lead to tyranny.

The National Assembly has now boxed the Executive branch to a tight corner where during the annual budgetary process, every legislator is given the opportunity to implant into the document, some flimsy projects, with large budgetary outlays, ostensibly for his constituency.

In adherence to the basic principles of the separation of powers, the best anyone can say is that these are Federal Government projects executed through the National Assembly members.

Putting it mildly, the so-called constituency projects make nonsense of the broad division of responsibilities into the Exclusive and Concurrent lists outlined in the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution for, a large part of the projects executed with Federal Government funds under the scheme are projects that should be executed by the Community Development Associations (CDAs), not even state and local governments.

This is partly responsible for why the Federal Government is seen as a defective, non-performing entity. Whereas our President can, every week, hop into the plane to go and commission real state projects – airports, massive road projects, state universities, etc, built at a cost of billions of Naira of state funds; the President whose development efforts have been relinquished to the legislators has nothing of his own to commission.

A whole President cannot be seen commissioning bore-holes, cheap school furniture and renovated three-classroom blocks scattered all over the place. And these are the places into which the billions of Naira allocated to constituency projects have evaporated!

Meanwhile, the legislators back home are busy showing coloured photographs of the same projects as their personal achievements.

Evidently, not everyone has been lucky enough to be a legislator. The other day, we saw the aide to a former governor. He is now in the race for the Senate. He has carefully packaged all the development efforts of the defunct administration as his personal achievement. That’s his constituency project.

That was when it became clearer that this writer also provided the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja since the initial idea was mooted in his presence. It is really wonderful, what people do in the name of campaign.

Apart from being a drain pipe, the constituency project is an indirect way of the Federal Government abandoning its duty post and usurping the responsibilities meant for other tiers.

Has anyone cared to find out how much of the taxpayers’ Naira is flushed down the toilet of the constituency projects? By the time the full story shall be told, it will be seen as a national embarrassment. Any attempt to credit those projects to legislators is the moral equivalence of a kidnap. And they deserve no less punishment than kidnappers.