Development Planning And Project Continuity Bill, 2011: A Mixture Of Enduring Legacies And Excellent Promises
All over the world, government is a continuum. Ideally, once the baton of leadership of a nation is handed over to a new government, the onus lie on the regime to embrace the projects, policies and programmes of the previous administration without recourse to any personal, party or primordial interests. However, one major identifiable draw-back to social, economic and infrastructural development in Nigeria is lack of continuity of policies and programmes of government at the federal, state and local levels. State resources are poorly managed, majorly siphoned or frittered as political leaders often embark on white elephant projects that cannot endure the test of time at the twilight of their tenures.
This unfortunate tradition has badly characterised governance and induced corruption since 1999. As at June, 2011, the Presidential Projects Assessment Committee led by Architect Ibrahim Bunu, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory had reported that there are 11,886 abandoned federal and state government projects dotting the nooks and crannies of Nigeria which will require N7.78 trillion to complete. The committee revealed that political and personal considerations outweighed national interest in the award of contracts. Majority of the contracts the committee said were procurement-driven rather than development driven. With this ugly political trend and ridiculous disposition of politicians, the nation is utterly consigned to retrogression if not urgently checked.
Vision 20:2020 initiated by late General Sani Abacha said to be one of the best of Nigeria's developmental plans had already identified interruption of development plans, programmes and projects as part of the bane of effective budgeting and development in Nigeria. The Vision considering the number of abandoned projects within the three tiers of government, proposed a legal framework that will guarantee continuity of projects even if there is a change in government. The proposed Development Planning and Project Continuity Bill, 2011 sent to the 7th Senate which stands to permanently remedy this man-made problematic situation is an off-shoot of Vision 20:2020. With this act of the parliament, the culture of initiating new or duplicating projects, programmes and policies by every government while those embarked upon by previous administrations are pending is permanently laid to rest. This bill provides sure remedy to the overt lack of seamless developmental plan for the nation. It rises above primordial sentiments and stands to quarantine any regional neglect or political vendetta. The proposed bill professes enduring legacies and showcases excellent promises to Nigerians.
First, section four of it states that it shall be unlawful for a government of the Federation to have an abandoned project in any part of Nigeria. Second, it calls for the establishment of a registry of projects for all ongoing and completed projects detailing the location, cost and purpose of each project and means of identification, the project commencement date and the agreed or projected date of completion. Third, the register should also include information on budgetary and funding sources of the project; the contractor in-charge of the project; amounts, disbursed and expended on the project; the estimated amount required for completion; and any other information or details pertaining to the implementation of the project. Section three makes formulation of development plan compulsory for all the three tiers of government in Nigeria.
Why have we habituated too long on this mount? According to Eze Onyekpere, Lead Director Centre for Social Justice, “the major underlying reason is that power has been entrusted to elected and appointed officials and career civil servants without a commensurate duty to be accountable to citizens. The thinking, sadly, is that the credit and the glory will go to the previous administration if the new one continues with the projects they initiated. But governance is a continuous exercise and two administrations are bound to take credit for initiating, continuing and completing large-scale projects. In the process of initiating new projects, too many activities are inserted in the budget year after year with very little resources to implement them. There are perverse incentives for public officials to abandon projects started by their predecessors. In essence, public officials deem and know that the kickbacks and bribes in old and ongoing projects have already been collected by the preceding public officials and as such, there is not much to personally gain in continued implementation of old projects. The alternative is to upwardly review the cost of an ongoing contract for the new men to get “a piece of the action”. But this may raise suspicion from the discerning public. Therefore, their best option is to design a new project (notwithstanding that it has no bearing on the welfare of citizens or growth of the economy) and get kickbacks from the exercise.”
The apparent lack of political ideology and patriotism driving parties and individuals is one low democratic spot in Nigeria. Politics is played with manifest bitterness. It is a do or die affair! Most Nigerian leaders are egoistic and power drunk. They take little or no advice from anyone. Parties and politicians alike see governance as an elitist question, a national cake to be shared among friends and relations devoid of service to humanity. Continuity in government induces seamless and even societal development. Developmental strides or legacies of government should not be seen as a personal achievement of individuals at the helm of state affairs. Rather as services occasioned and provided by virtue of the positions occupied by those who initiated them for the benefit of the nation and not one meant for accolades or a pat on their backs for a job well done. Government should take advantage of the excellent promises this bill offers and join hands with other well-meaning Nigerians to begin a robust engagement with the National Assembly to ensure that it is revisited and passed before the end of this administration. Therefore, we must all rise to bring to the consciousness of National Assembly the import of that bill and the disservice they are doing to the nation for not passing it. A bill of immense societal benefit like this one should not be allowed to die a natural death. This is a clarion call to the 8th Senate to revisit that proposed bill and give it the accelerated hearing and passage it deserves for the good of our nation-Nigeria.
Written by Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Communications Specialist