Reps Berate Osinbajo, Fashola Over Opposition To Constituency Projects | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Reps Berate Osinbajo, Fashola Over Opposition To Constituency Projects

Yemi Osinbanjo
Posted: Jul 1, 2016 at 6:12 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ahmed Musa


Abuja – Following their opposition to the inclusion of constituency projects for federal lawmakers in the nation’s annual budget, the House of Representatives has accused the duo of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, of double standard for facilitating same in their service of Lagos State and criticising it at the federal level.

The House in a reaction to an editorial published by the Nation on June 26 entitled ‘Unholy Alliance’ frowned at the way both the vice president and the minister presented their opposition to the proposal by lawmakers to have constituency projects incorporated in the annual budget.

In the strongly worded statement signed by the House spokesman, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, on Thursday, the green chamber said: “?For the benefit of those who are either ignorant or doubtful, the philosophy of constituency projects is well embedded and encapsulated in the 1999 constitution in the Federal Character Principle. More specifically, the constitution in section 14(3) states:  ‘The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.’

“This also extends to allocation and implementation of budget and projects which is well covered by the provisions of section 16 (1): ‘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…..”, the House said.

It also noted that the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, had at the same one-day national summit on the framework for implementing and sustaining constituency projects where both the vice president and the minister made presentations kicking against the proposal cited Lagos State as a flagship entity which has domesticated the concept via legislation with the active participation of the duo either as the state’s commissioner for justice and attorney general and governor, respectively.

“As Dogara noted, Lagos State stands out as the first state to enact legislation legitimising constituency project just one year into the fourth republic in 2000. In fact, other states soon emulated Lagos and to some extent even the federal legislature.

“HE Babatunde Fashola implemented constituency projects for members of the Lagos State House of Assembly for the eight years he was the governor. The vice president was AG of Lagos State also and at no point in time did any of them contend that the Lagos law was unconstitutional. As Senior Advocates why didn’t any of them challenge the Lagos law in court? Are they saying constituency project is only good and constitutional for Lagos State only? What else might have informed their sudden change of perception? Nigerians from other regions must see through this facade.

“We are now strongly tempted to suggest that perhaps all the minister wants is the free hand to single-handedly allocate lion share of capital votes in the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing to Lagos-Ibadan axis alone to the detriment of other parts of the country as seen in the 2016 budget proposal”, the House alleges.

?Buttressing its point further, the House which recently deliberated and passed the 2016 budget accused Fashola of promoting a sectional agenda by slanting certain important allocations toward his home region at the expense of other states of the federation.

“The main ministry’s capital budget as proposed by Fashola’s ministry was N334.3 billion out of which he allocated N89 billion to his home region while the North East, the most devastated and neglected region got a paltry N10 billion. How can anyone justify this and then turn around to oppose a token allocation of say N30 million for rural projects in the federal constituencies including the ones in the geopolitical zone that was allocated N89 billion of the ministry’s capital budget? Who is fooling who? A minister takes N89 billion to his region and turns around to attack N100 million meant for constituencies nationwide. Sadly, this is what the Nation is defending in its editorial which is a perfect example of clannish conspiracy.

“The argument has always been that the job of lawmakers is to make laws and no more, even then it is usually conveniently disregarded, the fact that annual budget or appropriation is one of the most important laws by the legislature.  We should be reminded that making laws is just one function while there are other more critical aspects of the work of MPs. The job of a lawmaker also includes representation which entails protection of the interests of their constituents by ensuring that they get fair treatment from government including a fair share of the national budget.

“But for constituency projects, many rural communities in Nigeria would never have known about the existence of the Federal Government let alone benefitting from budgets. Thanks to the mechanism of the projects which ensures that every year projects such as solar powered bores holes, hand pumps, school infrastructure, dispensaries, skills acquisition centres, poverty alleviation, etc are implemented, however, poorly the implementation. In fact, it is on record that over the years, the executive deliberately frustrates the implementation of constituency projects to the point that not up to 40 percent has ever been implemented in any given budget year. Already, unfortunately, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, has stated that the government may not be able to implement constituency projects in the 2016 budget. May be he doesn’t know that the Appropriation Act is a law that must be implemented unless of course if it is amended which can only be done if the government fails to meet its revenue targets.

“Needless to say that it is the monumental failure of the executive of successive governments to implement budgets and ensure national spread of projects through even and equitable allocation of capital votes that compelled lawmakers to insist that a meagre or paltry sum be allocated for projects in constituencies nationwide. Indeed it is strange for a top functionary of an APC government to oppose a policy aimed at fairness and transparency such as constituency projects. For the avoidance of doubt, skewed development is corruption and it’s propagation in an APC government will be puzzling paradox.

“The legislature is never averse to constructive criticism but criticism borne out of mischief is sheer hypocrisy and a deliberate attempt at giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it. The Nation‘s editorial on the subject deliberately avoided comparative analysis and the fact that HE Fashola himself implemented constituency projects as governor of Lagos State for 8 years. The editorial was at best an intellectual fraud. This certainly should not be the preoccupation of persons who are not only well informed but enjoy the privilege of laying hands on any information they lawfully desire”, the statement contended.