By John Mayaki
Politicians all over the world are favorite fodder of attacks from individuals with different sets of motives – including those seeking cheap notoriety and fame from sudden and retributive ‘activism’, even if the subject of the attacks are without basis and unfortunately rooted in ignorance of basic democratic and parliamentary processes.
Not too long ago, the member representing Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Peter Akpatason, was treated to one of such unfounded criticisms from a discredited emergency ‘activist’ no less, who could not be bothered to carry out simple research on the established processes of the funding and execution of constituency projects – the term used to define intervention works carried out on account of the restrained influence afforded to elected representatives in the budget direction/composition of the Executive branch.
This individual alleged that Hon. Peter Akpatason, having facilitated the inclusion of a string of projects sited in his constituency, including the construction of a mini-stadium, blocks of classrooms, boreholes, health centers, and other critical infrastructure for urgent government attention and funding, must have thus received the budgeted sums for the projects and perhaps stashed it in his private account, for which he must now give account.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In actual fact, elected legislators are not involved in the funding and execution of projects – that is the prerogative of the Executive branch of government, carried out through Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) under its control.
The role of legislators in Nigeria is to help the government identify priority and useful projects in their constituencies based on their familiarity with the local sentiments and better understanding of the challenges communities in the constituencies face and the best way to conclusively solve them.
This is why serious legislators waste no time in opening and manning a constituency office (Hon. Akpatason has at least two and frequents it often) to receive petitions from his constituents on matters requiring government attention for onward transfer to the National Assembly where he uses the power of his office to call attention to them and secure their inclusion in the country’s budgetary provisions.
No nation has enough resources to solve all the problems of its people, thus prioritization is not only expedient but compulsory. The Executive branch of government routinely examines the budget to determine projects to fund and to what extent to fund them over a specified period. For clarity, this means that although a project could carry a projected cost of 100 million naira, the Executive could decide to first commit 20 million naira for 20 percent execution level. And the sum, when approved and released, will be paid to the relevant MDAs under the strict control of the Executive for commencement of work, not the legislator in question.
An important point is thus made clear: legislators like Hon. Peter Akpatason do not receive a single kobo as payment for constituency projects; all funds are paid to government MDAs controlled by the Executive branch.
At best, the legislators, upon facilitating the prioritization of the projects (which is no mean feat considering they have to duel with other representatives from other parts of the country), proceed to supervise the projects to ensure quality and standard compliance. They also continually lobby for full funding and completion of the projects to bring development to their constituency and make the lives of their people easier.
But because someone must be held accountable, civil society organizations like Tracka NG typically make the legislators the face of these projects when they are captured in the budget but not yet executed. Unfortunately, in their criticism, they blur important lines including the fact that: not all projects captured in the budget are (fully) funded, and when funds are released, they do not go to the legislators.
Perhaps this error was what animated the misguided rants of the emergency activist who thought he finally had the tool to smear Hon. Akpatason after months of a fruitless search given the legislator’s effective representation and impeccable record of service.
Criticism and dissent are important for a functional democracy, but they should never be weaponized in personal, vindictive wars of vengeance over a perceived slight. It is hoped that this emergency activist either educates himself enough to at least command respect in this new field he has so maliciously chosen or relieve himself of the bitterness that drives him and set aside personal feelings to join in the commendation of one of Nigeria’s best member of parliament.
Mayaki is an Archivist, Historian, Documentalist, Communication, Culture and Media expert (Coventry University, England). He’s an Oxford and Cambridge University-trained entrepreneurship, leadership and sustainability expert and a Professional Consultant on Communication, Management and Strategy (Chattered Management Institute, England).