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Rethinking the constituency projects issue

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Nigerian Senate

IN other countries the news that “trillions” of naira were wasted in the past ten to twenty years on the so-called “constituency projects” of the National Assembly should have brought outraged and angry citizens to the streets. But in Nigeria, massive public sector corruption is no longer news, which is very sad!

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As usual, we are not even given enough credible information to know how much the nation has lost through the constituency projects which are meant to extend Federal-funded amenities to local communities to justify federal representation by members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In July 2019, Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, told a gathering of quantity surveyors in Abuja that its tracking of the National Assembly’s constituency projects in 12 states proved that they had made almost zero impact at the grassroots, though they gulped “about” two trillion naira since 2000.

Also, President Muhammadu Buhari informed another forum recently organised by the ICPC that the one trillion naira spent on constituency projects in the past decade with zero impact proved that the appropriation was wasteful.

However, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, a member of the House of Representatives, countered that though amounts were actually appropriated, only 40 to 50 per cent of the budgets were released for the projects.

The truth is that lawmakers do not execute the contracts. Rather, they are often allowed to nominate contractors while the Executive takes charge of contract delivery. In view of this, it is obvious that both the Legislative and Executive arms of the Federal Government have questions to answer as to their roles in this colossal waste.

This is where the absolute professional handling of this probe by the ICPC is called to play.

We commend the Commission for taking the initiative of auditing these constituency projects, but we also urge it to desist from the temptation of joining to play politics with the effort. For instance, it would be helpful and useful to the public if the ICPC is able to painstakingly establish the total amounts actually released for these projects by the Executive rather than focusing on the amount budgeted, which is misleading.

It is also curious that the National Assembly members had kept mute for nearly 20 years when the promise of constituency projects could not be delivered due to alleged poor funding by the Executive.

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Under a proper Federal system, the central government has no business sinking boreholes and building public toilets for local communities. These are the jobs of states and  local governments. Besides, it is very difficult for the Federal Government to monitor these mushroom projects to ensure implementation.

The fund for constituency projects should be invested in Federal infrastructure.

Vanguard

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