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Bill to Include Constituency Projects in Annual Budget by minimum of 20% scales second reading

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By Henry Umoru

MOVES by the Senate to ensure that Constituency Projects being initiated by Federal lawmakers were included in the nation’s yearly budget as being presented by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the National Assembly, yesterday got a boost as a Bill to that effect scaled second reading in the Senate.

The Bill which was introduced in the Senate and read the first time, Tuesday, 19th November 2019, seeks to ensure that specific portion of the Federal annual Budget was devoted to the constituencies for the purpose of Infrastructural development, wealth creation and the fight against poverty at the constituency level.

Also read: LAMENTATIONS OF AN IGBO SENATOR: We are the poor cousin of the South and Central — Stella Oduah

The new bill titled, ” Constituency Projects( Budgetary Provisions) Bill, 2019(SB170),  is sponsored on Tuesday by the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Stella Oduah, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Anambra North.
Senator Oduah who noted that constituency project is one of the ways to attract federal presence to the people, said, Available statistics show that seventy(70%) per cent of Nigerians live in the rural areas and the intention of the Bill is to ensure that good governance is delivered to these crucial areas. The Bill is also intended to correct the top-bottom approach of governance and replace it with the bottom-top approach.
“If not for these projects, the majority of federal constituencies would not have a single federal project due to the lopsided nature of project allocation in the budget. The Constituency Project is not peculiar to Nigeria alone.  There are similar mechanisms in other developing countries. For instance, the Constituency development fund has been institutionalized in Kenya, Uganda, India, and Tanzania.
” Instead of vilifying the National Assembly on the constituency project, people should advocate for an institutional framework for the implementation of the constituency Projects as it is the case in Kenya. The Bill, therefore, is an attempt at providing both institutional and legislative framework for the operation of constituency Projects in Nigeria thereby making it part of our National Budget.”
The Bill which scaled second reading yesterday was referred by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan to the Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos West Led Senate Committee on Finance and to report back in four weeks.
In her lead debate, Senator  Oduah said that as from the commencement of the Act, there shall be a provision for Constituency Projects in the Annual Budget of the Federation by a Minimum of 20 per cent.
According to her, the number of projects to be included in the constituency Projects submission form shall be a minimum of five and a maximum of twenty for every Constituency in each financial year, adding that a Joint project may be constructed for the benefit of two or more of the members constituencies subject to the approval of the National Assembly in those constituencies.
On the object and purpose of the Act, Senator Oduah said, ” the provisions of this Act shall apply, as more specifically provided for in the Act, and shall ensure that specific portion of the Federal annual Budget is devoted to the constituencies for the purposes of infrastructural development, wealth creation and the fight against poverty at the constituency level.
“The list of proposed Constituency Projects to be covered by this Act shall be submitted by the member of the National Assembly representing that Constituency. The member shall submit the project proposal to the Appropriation  Committee for input into the budget.
“The list of projects shall be submitted on Standard Constituency Projects submission form set out in the Schedule to this Bill. All Projects to every Constituency shall be listed in the form together with the amount allocated to such a project. For every project listed in the form, there shall be attached a Standard Project Description Form set out in the Schedule to this Act.”
The Senator who noted in the new Bill that the project must be Community based, said, “Projects under this Act shall be Community based in order to ensure that the prospective benefits are available to a wide cross-section of the inhabitants of a particular area.
“Any funding under this Act shall be for a completed project or a defined phase of a project and may include the acquisition of land and buildings.
“All Projects shall be projected as defined under this Act and may include costs related to studies, planning and design or other technical input for the project, but shall not include recurrent costs of a facility.
“Funds provided under this Act shall not be used for the purpose of supporting political bodies or political activities or for supporting religious bodies or religious activities. Projects may include the acquisition of vehicles, machinery and other equipment for the constituency.
” Environmental activities may be considered as development projects for purposes of this Act provided that the allocation of such activities does not exceed two per cent of the total allocation of the constituency in that financial year.”

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