Our federal lawmakers have formed the habit of trying to make laws for everything under the sun as if legislation is the only means of solving socio-political and economic problems.
The outrage which trailed the Bill in the Senate criminalising payment of ransom to kidnappers and seeking to jail the victims of government’s failure to implement the law has yet to die down. Now, there is another Bill in the same Senate seeking to compel governments at all levels to adopt planned development and ensure that all abandoned projects are completed with zero abandoned projects henceforth.
The Compulsory Development Planning and Project Continuity Bill, 2021″ sponsored by Senator Jibrin Barau (APC, Kano North), while lamenting the 11,886 abandoned federal and state projects identified in 2011 by the Presidential Projects Assessment Committee, said that the nation will be consigned to utter retrogression unless this ugly trend is checked.
While we share the concerns expressed by the sponsor and his colleagues whose support helped to push it beyond the second reading, we are afraid that this Bill cannot be enforced. Any law that cannot be enforced is not a law and should not be made in the first place.
Can a president, governor or ruling party be sued for refusal to continue with any project initiated by their predecessors considered as “white elephant” or out of tune with their own development vision? Can a court force a president or governor or ruling party to fund such projects? If they refuse, can they be jailed or sanctioned? We do not think so. All over the world, every newly elected government reserves the right to choose continuity or change. It depends on what they promised the electorate.
In President Muhammadu Buhari’s case, he promised change in 2015. But when he went into office, he decided to toe the line of continuity with the style and legacies of his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, predecessors, including the completion of their cardinal projects such as rail and road infrastructure renewal. The regime has been widely commended for this.
Nobody can fault the project continuity argument or say that our abandoned projects are good sights to behold. Some of these projects, like Ajaokuta Steel, are crucial for rapid national development. But some of them were mere conduit pipes to steal the taxpayers’ money. Some of them had no basis in logic or reason.
Persuasion and sensitisation remain the only tools at our disposal to get our leaders to adopt development planning and project continuity. Barau’s Bill is a waste of time.