Sen. Mohammed Hassan, Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, says there is no element of corruption in the injection of constituency projects in the national budget.
The Senator, who represents Yobe South, made the remark in an interview in Abuja on Thursday while reacting to a comment allegedly made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
According to him, the inclusion of the projects in the budget is done after following due process.
The former president was reported to have said at a two-day investment forum organised by the Niger State Government in Minna, recently, that constituency project was a form of corruption.
But Hassan said, “I have not read his comment but if he really said that, I will start by saying I am really disappointed for someone at that level to make such a statement.
“It is very important to make this very clear to Nigerians that constituency project is just like any other Federal Government project.
“If it was corruption, maybe during his time; but for the constituency projects in the 8th Senate that I have witnessed, there is nothing like corruption attached to it.
“For instance, in my senatorial district, last year, I embarked on youth and women empowerment and the records are there.
“You domicile such project in relevant ministries, agencies or departments and it goes through the normal approval process. So what is the corruption there?
“It is completely different from what people think. No money is given to lawmakers to embark on constituency projects.
“The monies go through the normal appropriation process and are released just like it is done for other projects,’’ he said.
According to him, the lawmakers only identify the projects based on the needs of their constituents and ensure they are captured in the budget.
Hassan explained that in his own case, he did make a case for the building of a knowledge centre for his constituents in view of their educational needs, which was captured in the 2017 Appropriation Act.
The lawmaker added that Yobe state is one of the educationally disadvantaged states in the country, as such “building such a centre in the state, should not be described as corruption.”
“ I felt it will help to develop them, help them get good grades and enable them gain admission into higher institutions; and someone will come and tell me it is corruption.
“If it is corruption, the entire process of approval is there for anyone to vet, besides, these projects are carried out in Nigeria for the benefit of Nigerians not foreigners.”
The senator urged the former president to clearly explain how the inclusion of constituency projects in the budget has corrupted the system.
“What I expected the former president to come out and say is, this is how it is been done and this is the corruption in it,’’ he said.
Hassan also expressed concern over what he called the demonisation of the National Assembly and urged Nigerians to stop pulling the institution down.
“It will make more sense to situate corrupt practices rather than generalising; when you generally associate the national assembly with corruption, it is unfortunate.
“The national assembly is doing very well, especially the 8th Assembly.
“For instance, the national assembly budget has been opened up and for the first time you could see the details,’’ he said.
He pleaded with Nigerians to stop “blind criticism” and be patient with the lawmakers as they work to entrench democratic culture in the country.