On Legislators And Constituency Projects | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Our View

On Legislators And Constituency Projects

Posted: Jun 28, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Honourable Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Housing and Works, last week at a summit on Political Representation and Constituency Relations and Interventionist Services in Abuja, threw a punch at members of National Assembly by challenging their long held position on Constituency Projects. He opined 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.’ This position was immediately rebuffed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara who claimed that Constitutional Projects were inherently provided for by the Constitution.

While Honorable Dogara’s position may be justifiable, the issue of members of the hallowed chambers handling constituency projects appears to run contradictory to their core duty of making laws. It is like a square peg in a round hole. The function of embarking on developmental projects should remain primarily that of the executive arm at all tiers of government, while the legislative arm ensures adequate funding, appropriation and execution of such projects.

It is a generally accepted fact, that no one is closer to the grass root than the local government. This is the lowest form of government and the local governments know the pulse of the people better than any other tier of government. The constituencies represented by the members of the National Assembly are combinations of local governments. Rather than the lawmakers getting involved in handling constituency projects, it would be better if they allow the local governments within their constituencies to agree on necessary developmental projects on a priority basis, while they facilitate the release of necessary funds for the execution of such projects.

Since the beginning of democracy in 1999 not a few Nigerians have alleged that Constituency Project Allowance which runs into millions of naira for each member of the Upper and Lower Chambers has ended up in private pockets. Indeed the members of their constituencies who are meant to be the beneficiaries of these funds have been the last to benefit from it, if they ever did.

Only recently Hon. Mohammed Baba Ibaku, Chairman Committee on Media and Information,Nasarawa State House of Assembly in an interview with an online media indicated that there was no proper definition of Constituency projects. The thinking is that it could be giving out as cash to members of the representatives’ constituencies!

This reveals another flaw and loophole in our constitution. There is a need for proper definition of what a Constituency Project represents, what Constituency Allowance should be used for and how it should be used. All these need to be addressed in the review of the 1999 Constitution. This should also be taken a step further by devolving the power to expend Constituency Allowance from members of the National Assembly to local governments and also putting strong monitoring system and framework to ensure proper usage of such funds.

If the 10 million naira or more that gets to each legislator every quarter for Constituency Projects is redirected to the local governments, grassroots development will be more rapid and the impact of these funds would be felt more by the people at the grassroots.

We therefore find Hon. Fashola’s position on Constituency projects a truer, fairer and better position than that of Hon. Dogara. Let Constituency Projects be handled by the Local Governments who are better positioned to ensure even distribution of these projects and let there be an oversight function by the legislators in ensuring that the funds appropriated are properly used.