Constituency Projects are critical to national development as they are one of the means by which the development gets to the nooks and crannies of the country through the active involvement of the Senators and Members of the National Assembly.
Since the return to democracy in 1999, Nigeria has budgeted trillions of naira for constituency projects sponsored by lawmakers in the two chambers of the national assembly.
Not only me, but several watch groups and citizens have noticed per time the non-patriotic conduct of some legislators in Nigeria in terms of subverting the confidence reposed on them by their distinct constituency in the face of non-execution, non-completion, shoddy completion and diversion of constituency projects originally meant for the constituency they represent.
Meanwhile, most legislators have been hiding under the public procurement act, noting that it is the sole responsibility of the MDAs to award and supervise contracts. They defend themselves by saying lawmakers can only propose projects while money is never released to them.
The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) as cited in a report by BUSINESS DAY newspaper on 4th May 2022, “accused Nigerian senators of diverting over N120 billion allocated to the 2021 constituency projects in their different jurisdictions. ICPC analysed the 2021 budgetary provisions across key sectors such as education, water resources, health, power, science and technology, environments, and agriculture and discovered that many projects were duplicated in just one budget cycle.
“If in just a year, N120 billion worth of projects were diverted, how many projects would have been diverted from 1999 to date? To understand the implication of that, assume that on an annual basis, about N50 billion worth of constituency projects are not executed. In two decades, that would amount to N1 trillion of money wasted. This is just a modest figure.
“As if to worsen matters, Nigeria’s constituency projects are shrouded in secrecy. First, the recipient regions are not aware of the projects, and this stems from the fact that the projects did not emanate from them. Second, the time of executing the project is not known for them to oversee their implementation.”.
However, the only constituency project our legislators have not failed in delivering to the masses are motorcycles, clippers, grinding machines and other instant money-yielding materials.
For instance, Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Fatai Buhari representing Oyo North Senatorial district said his vision is deeply rooted in creating and promoting a quality representation through responsive leadership display and accessible dividends of democracy to his constituents, in September 2020, he distributed 270 Motorcycles and 600 Grinding Machines to his constituents.
Recently after he won a third term seat at the red chamber, he did another empowerment tagged “Thank You Mini Empowerment Programme.” where he distributed 100 motorcycles, 150 sewing machines, 170 grinding machines, and 70 power generating sets.
As said by the lawmaker representing Ibadan North Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives and Chairman, House Committee on Science Research Institutes, Hon. Musliudeen Olaide Akinremi, “politicians must find ways to assist their constituents in order to bring them out of poverty, giving motorcycles, clippers and grinding machines as empowerment is not the way to go about it”.
Giving people motorcycles, clippers and grinding machines is not enough to empower constituents. Give them scholarships and give them training; empowerment is about assisting people and equipping them with what they do not have in order to make them financially independent and lead them out of poverty.
Thus, I am appealing to the newly elected lawmakers, especially those representing the two Ogbomoso Federal Constituencies, Hon Olamijuwonlo Alao-Akala and Hon Ojo Makanjuola not to follow the footpaths of their predecessors and make constituency projects serve the purpose it was created for. The main occupation across the five local government areas that make up the constituency is agriculture. Identifying areas where farmers need farm inputs like silos and water irrigation equipment and giving them directly to farmers on their farmlands will large number of the citizens directly and indirectly.
Also, there are business owners who create wealth by taking people off the street, this giving them their primary equipment with an agreement to produce more of what they do will further reduce unemployment. With this, more people will benefit from the constituency projects which will be more beneficial than building ICT centres that are not properly equipped or healthcare centres that do not have needed workforce.
Lawmakers should hold meetings with the electorates using the aid of technology to listen to their yearnings and feed them back on what to expect and ensure it’s completed on time. Most town hall meetings have turned to political meetings and gathering, with the aid of technology more people would be able to participate as data collected from such calls can be analysed and worked on.
Hon Olamijuwonlo Alao-Akala and Hon Ojo Makanjuola and others should not subvert the confidence reposed on them by the electorates in the face of non-execution, non-completion, shoddy completion and diversion of constituency projects originally meant for the constituency they represent. I and other like-minded journalists would assist in monitoring and creating awareness about constituency projects in order to disabuse the people of Ogbomoso of the wrong notion that lawmakers use their funds to execute constituency projects; to the extent that they can demand accountability from their representatives.
Femi Ajiboye is a Broadcaster/ Journalist from Ogbomoso