Emerging reports, has revealed that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki-led Senate, is plotting to corner a whopping 20 percent of the country’s annual budget, under the pretense of execution of constituency projects in their various domains.
The indicting reports, is coming at a time, when the Senate had on Thursday, December 8, approved further Legislative work on a bill seeking the reservation of at least 20 percent of the Federal annual budgets for constituency projects.
Going by the Executive’s estimate to present an appropriation bill of N7.2 trillion in the 2017 fiscal year, the Senators are proposing to set aside N1.4 trillion naira, for such constituency projects.
Recall, that over the years, the issue of constituency projects has generated a lot of controversies, as many Nigerians had argued that such projects are conduit pipes at which Lawmakers directly, or indirectly embezzle funds.
During the debate on the general principles of the bill on the Senate floor, Senator Odua, explained that the bill seeks to grant legal backing to the provision of constituency projects in the annual budget of the Federation, by a minimum of 20 percent.
She said, “Distinguished colleagues, one of the unique features of our democratic journey so far, is the concept of ‘Constituency Projects’. Available statistics, show that seventy (70%) percent of Nigerians, live in the rural areas, and the intention of the bill is to ensure that good governance is delivered to these crucial areas.“The bill is also intended to correct the top-bottom approach of governance, and replace it with the bottom top approach,” She said.
According to her, “Constituency project in recent time is one of the ways to attract Federal presence to our people.
“If not for these projects, majority of Federal constituencies would not have a single Federal project, due to the lopsided nature of project allocation in the budget.
“The constituency project is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. There are similar mechanisms in other developing countries. For instance, the constituency development fund has been institutionalized in Kenya, Uganda, India, and Tanzania.“Instead of vilifying the National Assembly on the constituency project, people should advocate for an institutional framework for the implementation of the constituency projects, as it is the case in Kenya.“This Bill therefore, is an attempt at providing both institutional and legislative frame work for the operation of constituency projects in Nigeria, thereby making it part of our National Budget.“The Lawmaker further noted, that while it is true that Local Government councils have the responsibility of the development of local communities, the Federal Government has the overall responsibility of providing Federal presence in these areas, through developmental projects.“There is no way this can be achieved without the input of the parliamentarians, who are the representatives of the people at the Federal level.“My respected colleagues, by so doing, the parliamentarian who ‘knows the needs of the people, will articulate them in the form of projects for injection into the Budget, in the form of projects,” Odua argued.
Based on her submissions, “any funding under this Act, shall be for a complete project, or a defined phase of a project, and may include the acquisition of land and buildings.
”All projects shall be projects as defined under this Act when passed, 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 may include the acquisition of vehicles, machinery, and other equipment for the constituency,” Odua said.
Presently, President Muhammadu Buhari, is scheduled to present the 2017 Appropriation Bill, to a joint session of the National Assembly, next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the bill to retain 20 percent of the budget for constituency project, which is sponsored by Senator Stella Odua, has passed the second reading stage at the Senate, and has already been referred to the Committee on Finance and Appropriation, and it is expected to be passed into law, early 2017.
Political Analysts however, are presently decrying, that if the Bill is eventually passed into law before the 2017 budget proposal is signed, a total of N1.4 trillion would be dedicated to the National Assembly, for constituency projects next year.
The Senate has however, directed the Committees to turn in their reports on the bill, within four weeks.
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