Non Existent Constituency Projects

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Baron De Montesquieu, a French scholar and thinker propounded the theory of the separation of powers among the three arms of government – the executive, legislature and judiciary. The executive is to implement the law while the legislature is to make them and the judiciary was vested with the powers to interpret them.

This separation of powers works best with the American style Presidential system of government. The only slight fusion is in the fact that the Vice-President of the United States is also the President of the Senate. He doesn’t preside over the sittings – that is the role of the Senate majority leader. He has one vote which he uses to break a tie in the voting pattern. The English style which Nigeria practiced in the aborted first republic has the fusion of the members of the legislature and executive. The members of the cabinet including the Prime Minister are both parliamentarians and members of the executive as well.

Since the return to democracy two decades ago, Nigeria opted for the American presidential style of government however with a slight difference – the lawmakers or legislators are given funds for constituency projects. These projects are supposed to be sited in the lawmakers’ constituencies and meant to help alleviate the plight of the people they are supposed to represent.

President Muhammadu Buhari in an event organized by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) lamented that about one trillion naira was earmarked for constituency projects in the last ten years with nothing to show for it.

This is really tragic as the funds constitute a corrupt drain pipe for our honourables both at the state and federal level as well as the senators.

These funds are similar to the security vote that the governors are given as they aren’t accounted for to the hapless public.

Most of these legislators do not even have constituency offices and even the few that have hardly go there. The legislature which is supposed to be the closest to the people is ironically the most distant as the people hardly interacts with their elected representatives. Most only see these ‘big men and women’ once in four years during the electioneering campaign when they dole out perishable items like foodstuffs, motorcycles popularly known as okada, sewing machines, grinding machines etc with a few naira notes and then they go into oblivion for the next four years. These legislators act like ‘abikus’ as it’s an endless vicious cycle of merciless use and dump.

In my humble opinion, the constituency projects which have no place in the 1999 Nigerian constitution should be scrapped with immediate effect. It is a surreptitious usurpation of the powers of the executive and has become a huge drain pipe which has distracted our lawmakers from their core duty of lawmaking.

There have been strident calls for the government to run on a lean model as it’s unacceptable that our legislators even earn more than the President of the United States – the world’s most powerful individual. The country cannot afford to carry the economic burden of these ‘idle’ individuals who only sit six months of the year. The legislature should be run on a part time basis as was the case in the first republic and they should earn only sitting allowances with some funds to hire one or two legislative aides to help them out with intense research work. The legislature should stop being the retirement home for ex governors or for hustlers. The first eleven should be attracted there while still keeping their day time jobs.

There was a recent revelation that the Senator representing Delta South, James Manager who has been in the red chambers since 2003 allegedly cornered three hundred Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Contracts for himself and is said to owe some contractors billions of naira. This is rather ludicrous as it makes a huge mockery of the reason why these parliamentarians were elected in the first place.

For Pete sake, they were elected to make good laws for the country and not to dabble into constituency projects and harass the heads of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) for contracts and deals. It is a great aberration of their duty and should be scrapped going forward.

He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. The executive in the office of the governors should do away with the security votes that are a gargantuan source of corruption as billions are frittered away annually without any corresponding accountability to the hapless electorate.

I disagree with the call by Senator Ali Ndume that a commission should be established to monitor and track the constituency projects. It will be another waste of tax payers’ money to establish a whole commission to be saddled with that responsibility. The National Assembly should be able to provide a database of the projects under review and ordinary citizens through the power provided by the Freedom of Information Act should be able to ascertain the projects that their representatives are handling.

The constituents should stop behaving as if the politicians are doing them a favour. They should act critical questions from these absentee legislators.

Change is made possible by non conformists who can shake the tables and change the status quo.

Once again, I make a loud call for the abolishing of the constituency projects as that seems to be the main reason for politicians seeking office into the legislature rather than the noble task of law making.

Enough is Enough!
Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos and edits

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Articles by Anthony Ademiluyi