THE Senate and the Executive arm of the government may be on collision course following the plan by the legislators to insert constituency projects in the 2017 budget. The Senate, on Thursday, December 10, proposed a bill seeking to reserve almost a quarter or 20 percent of annual budgets for its members to manage as constituency projects exclusive of the executive arm of government.
According to the bill, lawmakers will insert the projects under subheads in the budgets of ministries and agencies that they supervise. The agencies are expected to execute the projects based on specification and guidance by benefitting lawmakers.
The ‘Constituency Projects Bill, 2016’ sponsored by Stella Oduah, a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, senator from Anambra, seeks to grant legal backing to the provision for constituency projects in the annual budget of the federation by a minimum of 20 percent.
Oduah said: “One of the unique features of our democratic journey so far is the concept of ‘Constituency Projects’. Available statistics show that 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. Constituency project in recent time is one of the ways to attract federal presence to our people,” she said.
She said if not for the projects, majority of federal constituencies would not have a single federal project due to 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,” she said.
In his contribution to the debate, Olusola Adeyeye, chief whip of the Senate, advised that the 20 percent should be based on capital projects. “This is not money given to Senators or Reps, it is money meant for specific projects. At the moment, it is N100billion for 109 Senatorial Districts and 360 Federal constituencies. That’s 1.5 percent of the Federal Budget,” Adeyeye said.
Bukola Saraki, president of the Senate, in his remark, said constituency projects would ensure equity in the distribution of federal projects. “I don’t think there is anything that ensures equity in the country like the constituency projects. Our responsibility is to provide the projects to our constituencies, full stop,” he said.
Consequently, Saraki referred the bill to the committees on Finance and Appropriation for further legislative actions with a four-week timeframe.
If passed and assented, N1.4trillion, representing 20 percent of the N7.2 trillion 2017 estimates which President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to present to the joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday, December 14, will be for constituency projects.
The budget presentation is coming although the National Assembly has not concluded work on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, a precondition for passing the budget.
If the bill becomes law, the constituency projects will get at least N1.4 trillion out of the 7.3trillion 2017 budget estimates to be presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, December 14.
The constituency projects are mainly for provision of feeder roads, schools rehabilitation, building of market stalls, boreholes, provision of empowerment items such as sewing machines, grinding machines, knitting machines as well as vehicles including motorcycles, tricycles and cars.
— Dec 19, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT