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NASS and Constituency Projects allowance

Definitely, no one would be surprised at the recent defence of Constituency Projects allowance by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.  Speaking in Billiri town, Gombe State at the launch of an empowerment scheme, Dogara posited that members of the National Assembly see constituency projects as the only way to attract federal presence to their constituencies. Even though, he admitted that it was not the responsibility of lawmakers to execute such projects, the Speaker maintained that given the widespread poverty and hardship among Nigerians, it was imperative that lawmakers take upon themselves the task of reaching out to the deprived at the grassroots in order to ameliorate their situation.
Since the return to democratic rule 17 years ago, the issue of constituency projects allowance has been at the crux of every disagreement between the Executive and the Legislature. Citing relevant provisions of the constitution, legislators claim sole responsibility for appropriation while insisting they have the power to alter, reject or even rewrite the budget. However, behind the veneer of this argument is the age-long battle between them over who should be responsible for the so-called constituency projects.
For the avoidance of doubt, ‘Constituency Project’ is the term used to describe any project in a community that is nominated into a budget by a particular legislator.  In contrast, any similar project nominated by a government agency or ministry for the community is never seen as a constituency project but a “budget project”.
The often-touted argument of legislators to justify their hold on constituency projects is that they closer to the people and so know more of their pressing needs. Invariably, this is where we disagree. We believe that the constitutional duty of legislators is the making of laws for the good governance of the people and society. Therefore, we are repulsed at the sight of our legislatures turning themselves into contractors for the sole purpose of executing constituency projects.
Even when they claim that, they are not given cash for such projects, it is no secret that some legislators are also the contractors selected to execute their nominated projects. It is a fact that even when constituency projects are advertised as required by law, lawmakers have devised dubious ways of ensuring that only companies fronting for them or those belonging to their cronies are pre-qualified.
Perhaps this explains why they devote more of their time running after contracts for so- called constituency projects. Even at that, evidences show that many of such projects are poorly executed, either uncompleted or even abandoned after full payments were made.
It is time, lawmakers realise that Nigerians are not enamoured of their continued interest in constituency projects at the expense of legislative functions for which they are elected. All we see in the entire exercise is the overwhelming pursuit by legislators for personal monetary gains. Unfortunately, budgets for these projects are not only shrouded in secrecy but also are  allegedly diverted by some lawmakers.
That is why Nigerians are calling for outright cancellation of constituency projects or in alternative bring more clarity and openness to the process by publishing what each lawmaker gets and for which project.

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