The Senate on Wednesday sought to provide legal backing to the provision of Constituency Projects in Nigeria’s annual budget by a minimum of twenty percent.
The move to do so was initiated with the consideration of the Constituency Projects (Budgetary Provisions) Bill, 2019, sponsored by Senator Stella Adaeze Oduah (PDP, Anambra North).
Oduah, in her lead debate, said the intention of the bill is to ensure that good governance is delivered to the people, most of whom statistics show, are seventy percent rural dwellers.
A press release signed by the Special Assistant (Press) to President of the Senate, Ezrel Tabiowo, quoted Oduah as arguing that Constituency Project was one of the ways of attracting federal presence to Nigerians from across the states.
“If not for these projects, majority of federal constituencies would not have a single federal project due to lopsided nature of project allocation in the budget,” the lawmaker said, adding that Constituency Project was not peculiar to Nigeria alone.
Senator Oduah stated that in countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and India, mechanisms such as the Constituency Development Fund had been institutionalized.
“Instead of vilifying the National Assembly on constituency project, people should advocate for an institutional framework for the implementation of the constituency project as it is the case in Kenya.
“This bill, therefore, is an attempt at providing both institutional and legislative framework for the operation of constituency projects in Nigeria, thereby making it part of our national budget,” she said.
The lawmaker added that if passed, the Act shall be community based in order to ensure that the prospective benefits are available to all inhabitants of a particular area.
Oduah added that all projects under the Act when passed, shall be defined as “projects” and may include costs related to feasibility studies, planning and design or other technical input for the project, but shall not include recurrent costs of a facility.
Projects under this category, according to her, may include the acquisition of vehicles, machinery, land, buildings and other equipment for the constituency.
“It is instructive to note by way of educating the general public that members of the National Assembly merely identify the needs of the constituents and recommend same to the executive during budgeting.
“Ultimately, they have no direct control over their implementation; hence the award, financing and supervision of constituency projects are the preserves of appropriate agencies other than the National Assembly,” the lawmaker stressed.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, after the bill scaled second reading, referred same to the Committee on Finance for further legislative work.