Fashola, Dogara Disagree Over Constitutionality Of Constituency Projects | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Fashola, Dogara Disagree Over Constitutionality Of Constituency Projects

Power Supply; Niger Delta projects; IYC youths
Posted: Jun 21, 2016 at 6:20 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

Ahmed Musa

Abuja – Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, said on Monday that the constitutional responsibilities of legislators to make laws and provide checks on other arms of government do not entail embarking on developmental projects especially in areas that are outside the exclusive legislative list of the constitution.

But Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the House of Representatives, disagreed with minister, insisting that the basis for conceptualisation of constituency projects is inherent in the constitution.

Mr. Fashola stated this while delivering a goodwill message at a one-day national summit on political representation and constituency relations and intervention services held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

Fashola, who, however, commended the leadership of the House for bringing what he called “this very interesting discourse into public space” told the gathering that “constituency projects are not necessarily found in our constitution, they have effectively grown by convention over the years”.

“So in trying to find a legal framework for constituency projects, we must first look at what are those things that the National Assembly has powers to legislate upon. So we must avoid crowdedness and must be mindful of misplacing the jurisdictions with respect to other tiers of government.

“Most importantly, the constituencies belong to those who seek to have them and in this instance, the state’s in which these constituencies are found, which automatically places the legislative responsibility on the state Houses of Assembly. So in discussing this, we must look at the place of the National Assembly in the exclusive list and that of the concurrent list to see if they are within the purview of the National Assembly”, the minister stressed.

While declaring that 15 percent of roads in Nigeria are all federal roads leaving the remaining 85 percent for the states and local governments, Fashola highlighted the efforts of the present administration to deal with pending construction work on different stretches of federal roads across the country, saying that they pass through constituencies to complement the efforts made by states of performing local governments to provide good roads.

“In dealing with federal roads, let me come to the Abuja-Lokoja federal highway. From statistics made available by the Federal Road Safety Commission, many lives have been lost there. So in framing this year’s budget, we gave attention to the completion of this road as well as others across the country. And to also avoid the temptation of crowding out the states and local government legislators,” he said.

He urged lawmakers to also take ownership of these roads and lay more emphasis on the legal framework of constituency projects so that they do not suffer neglect once the lawmaker who influenced them could not come back to the National Assembly.

Speaker Dogara, in his keynote address, disagreed with the minister, insisting that the basis for conceptualisation of constituency projects is inherent in the constitution, adding that the concept was a borrowed practice from other established democracies in the world borne out of the demand by Nigerians to have even distribution of government projects.

Dogara said: “The idea of constituency intervention projects arose as a result of the demand by Nigerians for equitable and even distribution of infrastructural development projects. The concept of federal character has already been enshrined in the Nigerian constitution and it was felt that lopsided distribution of government amenities would offend the federal character principle and lead to concentration of resources in the hands of a few states or groups in Nigeria.

“The fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy is the philosophical underpinning of the Nigerian constitution and it provides in Section 14(3) that: ‘The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity”. Section 15(4) is also in support of the point being made: ‘The state shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the federation…”

He argued that further provisions are made in Section 16 (1), saying: “The state shall…harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self-reliant economy and control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality…”

“Section 16 (2) says also that: ‘The state shall direct its policy towards ensuring (b) that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good”, the speaker contended.

Also speaking at the event, Babachir David Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, as well as Senator Babafemi Ojodu, the Special Assistant to the President on Political Matters, who represented Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, commended the speaker for the foresight of seeking lasting comprehensive framework for the sustainability of constituency projects.

While the SGF held that the concept was a lofty developmental idea aimed at taking governance closer to the people, he also lamented the failure of the initiative over the years owing to corruption in the polity.

He said: “The objective of this summit I understand is to foster intergovernmental relationship in developing constituency projects. It is true that billions of money had been spent in the past without framework for the maintenance and sustainability. It has also served as avenues for embezzlement and misappropriation.

“Knowing that this initiative is in line with the change agenda of this administration, may I implore you to come up with comprehensive framework that clearly situates the priority importance of the identified needs of constituencies and the mechanism for maintaining them,” he urged.

Senator Ojodu assured the gathering that the VP recognises the importance of the legislature as an arm of government and the principles it represents.

He, however, had a word of solidarity for the lawmakers, saying: “Your primary role as defined in the constitution is lawmaking, but because the people value development and rate performances based on the number of projects you have brought, they may not re-elect you if you have not built roads, sunk boreholes and electrify communities which primarily shouldn’t be your responsibility”.

Other speakers at the event included the speaker of the Abia State House Assembly and deputy chairman of the conference of speakers, Hon. Martin Azubuike, who said the discussion bordering on the legality of constituency projects couldn’t have come at a better time given the controversy it has generated.

 

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