Constituency Projects: Myths And Realities   | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Constituency Projects: Myths And Realities  

Posted: Apr 26, 2016 at 5:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Espying with  Nnedi Ogaziech


“Constant experience shows us that

every man invested with power is apt

to abuse it, and carry his authority until

he is confronted with limits”


-Baron de Montesquieu (1748).

The concept of separation of powers in a democracy does not suggest the creation of three arms of government that live in fear, intrigues, antagonism or suspicion. In contrast it is supposed to strengthen the unity of governments built on a trinity where each pillar re-enforces and supports the other.

For some reasons, the beauty of the characterisation seems not fully realisable in this country because of some misconceptions and unwarranted superiority complex. A clear reading and understanding of the spirit and letters of the constitution shows that no arm of government was intended to be superior to the other but rather each is to complement the other.

Given man’s capacity to abuse power especially when availed in absolutism, greater wisdom then informed the curtailment of the exercise of such powers through constitutional checks and balances.

In aggregation, the functions of each arm of government devolve into the function of a government if properly interpreted. It stands to reason therefore that in sharing the powers of a state amongst the three arms of government in line with the functions each arm is supposed to perform, the constitution envisages that no arm will overreach itself to the extent of undermining any other arm.

That is the finest beauty of constitutional democracy and the players in any democratic setting are expected to conform to the time-tested norms, mores and ethics consistent with democratic practice.

Having said this, the kind of controversy the issue of Constituency Projects has generated over the years in our budgetary process underscores a clear poor understanding of the limits of the powers of the Executive on budget proposition and the Legislature in appropriation.

The constitution is clear as to who performs what role and the operators cannot pretend not to understand the provision of the constitution on the powers and functions of each arm. One can then rightly situate the whole imbroglio at the door step of either absolute mischief or unpardonable ignorance.

It is trite that the business of proposing a budget is clearly a function of the executive and when once that money bill is laid at the National Assembly by the executive, the business of evaluation and appropriation lies with the legislature.

If the right things should be done, this constitutional arrangement clearly creates the room for robust lobbying between the two arms of government.

In the exercise of its power of budget proposition, platforms can be created by the executive for meeting of minds between the Ministries, Departments and Agencies with their respective Overseeing Committees in the National Assembly to deepen the inter arm knowledge of what the programmes and the projections are.

The beauty of creating such platforms for healthy interface is that the legislators can leverage the platform to sell their respective constituency project ideas to those Ministries, Departments and Agencies in order to secure buy-in before the whole thing moves to the budget office.

This seamless rapprochement built on internationally acceptable lobby standards would have gone a long way in demystifying this “constituency” projects that have remained the recurrent sore thumb and stumbling block in our budgetary process.

This model of engagement between the executive and legislature would put all the key players in the budgetary process on the same page, promote the unity of government, reduce the time spent on budget defence at the National Assembly, remove incidences of budget padding and reduce the tension budgeting creates between the executive and the legislature.

The absence of adopting a module that promotes transparency and openness mystifies the whole process including the constituency projects that have generated so much rumours, controversies and bad blood.

Unfortunately, even when the legislature has tried in muffled tones to clear the air as to their good intentions in promoting constituency projects, the process of introducing same in the budget has become their biggest albatross, little wonder many view those “projects” as masked package of fraud.

Stories are being told about constituency projects being mere handouts to the legislators who benefit from same without those projects being executed. Others believe the legislators just dubiously walk away with the money or at best collude with contractors to either initiate and avoid conclusion or totally ignore relevant projects to constituencies while pursuing either cheap or white elephant projects that often leave constituencies bare of any developmental projects.

Our fabled ‘nascent’ democracy ought to have long been weened into a viable and people focused system where truly elected representatives in both the executive and legislative arms make an effort to work as two knowledgeable arms in a democracy for the sole benefit of the people who are the mandate givers.