A bill that seeks to allocate a minimum of 20 per cent of Nigeria’s annual budget to constituency projects has passed the second reading at the Senate.
The bill was passed on Wednesday after the lawmakers debated the provisions of the bill.
It was first read on November 19 and is sponsored by Stella Oduah
(PDP, Anambra North).
This bill comes on the heels of outcry over non-existent and incomplete constituency projects proposed by lawmakers.
Nigerian lawmakers have been accused of using constituency projects as a means of embezzling public funds.
Only recently, President Muhammadu Buhari said billions of naira allocated to constituency projects had not been properly utilised – an allegation that the Senate Minority Leader dismissed as erroneous.
According to the bill, projects under the Act when passed shall be community based in order to ensure that the prospective benefits are available to a widespread cross-section of the inhabitants of a particular area.
It also states that any funding under the 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 and;
“Projects may include the acquisition of vehicles, machinery and other equipment for the constituency,” are some provisions of the bill.
Leading the debate, Mrs Oduah said constituency orojects is one of the unique features of Nigeria’s democratic journey so far.
She said the bill is intended to correct the top-bottom approach of governance and replace it with the bottom top approach.
If not for the projects, majority of federal constituencies would not have a single federal project due to lopsided nature of project allocation in the budget, she said.
The lawmaker said instead of vilifying the National Assembly on the constituency projects, people should advocate for an institutional framework for the implementation of the constituency projects as it is the case in Kenya.
“Most legislators around the world angle for such projects such that they can appeal to the voters in their constituents since they seek votes just as the executive does. In most democracies, it is a process used to obtain funding from a central government to finance projects benefiting the legislators’ local constituents.
“The Constituency Projects shall constitute 20% of the Annual Budget by ensuring that certain portion of the nation’s annual budget be set aside for rural development.
“Since the inception of constituency project in Nigeria there have been misconceptions, misinterpretations and judgment of the constituency project administration. This and indeed some other factors have painted the hallowed chambers of National Assembly in bad light,” she said.
In his contribution, the Deputy Chief Whip, Sabi Abdullahi said there are lots of misinterpretations and misinformation on constituency projects hence the need to act in a manner that gives every constituency a sense of belonging and a national feeling.
“I think it is only very fair to ensure that every part of this country have that sense of belonging, those little interventions as democratic dividends.
“The idea of getting it from bottom up is what we have actually been doing because when you go to campaign, you get a list of problems and I think it is only a bad politician that will come that when you have this opportunity to say that you want to ignore those little things that your people actually told you they are interested in,” he said.
After the bill was read for the second time, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, referred it to the Senate Committee on Finance for public hearing and further legislative work.
The committee is to report back in four weeks.