Nigerians Yet To Benefit From N1trn Constituency Projects, Says Buhari


President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigerians, especially those at the grassroots are yet to benefit from the constituency projects by members of the National Assembly.

He noted that despite spending huge sums of money running into hundreds of billions of naira on such projects, the people were yet to feel the impact.

The President made the remarks in his speech at the national summit on ‘Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service’ which held on Tuesday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.


The Worst Fears

“It is on record that in the past 10 years, N1trillion has been appropriated for constituency projects yet the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of ordinary Nigerians can hardly be seen,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his media adviser, Femi Adesina.

The President added, “The first phase report of tracking these projects by ICPC confirms our worst fears that people at the grassroots have not benefited in terms commensurate with the huge sums appropriated for constituency projects since inception.

“I am, therefore, delighted that through the effort of ICPC, some contractors are returning to the site to execute projects hitherto abandoned and that project sponsors are being held to account.”

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President Buhari commended the new Board of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for major enforcement and preventive initiatives in this regard.

According to him, steps taken by the anti-graft agency include the System Study Review, tracking of zonal intervention projects (constituency projects), and collaboration with the National Social Investment Office.

“The ICPC has my full support and the support of this government to hold fully to account contractors, complicit public servants and project sponsors who divert funds meant for constituencies or other people-oriented welfare projects of our government or who by other means reduce the quality and value of such projects meant for our people,” the President assured.

On assets recovery, he reaffirmed that his administration would continue to support anti-corruption agencies to recover all ill-gotten wealth and prosecute offenders.

President Buhari insisted that all fully recovered physical assets would be sold and the proceeds remitted to the nation’s treasury.

Enforcement activities by anti-corruption agencies, according to him, have continued to reveal that some public officers possess properties and assets way beyond their legitimate sources of income.

He stated that asset recovery cases in court also revealed that some “criminally-minded” public officials were quick to disown such properties during investigations and in court.

“Recovered assets will continue to be deployed in the provision of needed infrastructure and social welfare programmes. The National Social Investment Programme is already utilising recovered funds to touch the lives of vulnerable Nigerians.

“I, therefore, commend the partnership between the ICPC and the National Social Investment Office to ensure that beneficiaries of government social intervention programmes are not short-changed along the line by unpatriotic officials,” the President said.


A Catalyst For Insecurity

He described corruption as the cause of many major problems facing Nigeria and reiterated his administration’s commitment to tackling it.

President Buhari believes corruption is a catalyst for poverty, insecurity, weak educational system, poor health facilities and services, among many other ills of the society.

He, however, gave assurance that his administration was working hard to overcome corruption which he said has inhibited the ability of the government to deliver infrastructure and basic services to the people.

“That is why I have reiterated on many occasions that corruption is an existential threat to Nigeria.

‘‘Corruption is furthermore, a major threat to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and the socio-economic transformation we are all working hard to bring about in Nigeria,” the President told the gathering at the summit.

A highpoint of the event was the presentation of integrity award to an Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashir Abubakar, and Mrs Josephine Ugwu of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), by the President.

Abubakar was awarded for rejecting $412,000 (N150 million) per container bribe offered to him by drug traffickers to import 40 containers laden with tramadol.

On the other hand, Ugwu is a former cleaner at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos who had on different occasions returned millions of naira found in the course of her duty, including the sum of $12 million forgotten in the toilet by an airport user.

Senate Working On Bill To Legalise Constituency Projects

Senate Working On Bill To Legalise Constituency ProjectsThe Senate is working on a bill which would ensure that 2.5% of funds generated in the federation is set aside for constituency projects.

The bill, called the Constituencies Development Catalyst Fund Bill, if passed into law, would give legal backing for the deduction of funds intended for constituency projects.

Speaking at a public hearing in Abuja, the sponsor of the bill, Senator Buhari Abdulfatai described as regrettable, allegations that lawmakers siphon monies meant for constituency intervention projects.

He said that constituency projects are handled by the executive and not the legislature, adding that those who make such allegations have little or no knowledge of the workings of the legislature.

Budget Padding: 80% Of Constituency Projects’ Monies Are Misappropriated – Clark

Robert Clark on Budget paddingA Senior lawyer in Nigeria, Mr Robert Clark, says 80 per cent of the monies allocated to constituency projects and given to members of the National were never used for the projects.

He told Channels Television on Sunday that almost two trillion Naira had been allocated to constituency projects of the National Assembly between 1999 and 2016, but decried the mismanagement of the funds.

“I have observed and I have done a research. Since 1999 up to date, almost two trillion Naira of Nigerian money has passed through budget for 16 years based on projects allotted to National Assembly members for their constituencies.

“I have also observed that 80 per cent of these projects were never carried out.

“Who approved the project to be done? Who paid out to contractors and which contractors handled it?” he questioned.

The lawyer urged President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to probe how much of the funds allocated to constituency projects were actually used.

He believes the check will help ensure that the monies allocated to projects are properly utilised.

On the criminality of budget padding, the senior lawyer said that padding of budget could happen in the beginning, middle or at the end of the budget process.

“The beginning also contains the padding. The end is when after having been passed as the budget, the monies meant for members of the National Assembly, who have inserted in the budget constituency claims, will now ask the executives to now execute the constituency projects,” he stressed.

According to him, padding creates an offence when it happens after the budget had been agreed on by the committees.

“Padding creates an offence because it happens after the committee has agreed on all insertions.

“It is not criminal yet but it is an unlawful act because it is punishable under the rules of the House.

“It is an infringement of the rules of the National Assembly to make insertions on a document after the committee has passed it,” the senior lawyer explained.

He further opined that the padding allegation by a former Chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, was not a matter for anti-graft agencies, insisting that the National Assembly could address the issue.

“This is the discipline which they have to do,” Mr Clark added

House Of Reps Seeks Unbiased Allocation Of Constituency Projects

Yakubu Dogara, Constituency ProjectsThe House of Representatives is seeking more liberal and equitable ways of distributing constituency projects across Nigeria.

The Speaker of the House, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, made the call on Monday at the one-day Political Representation and Constituency Intervention Summit in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

He said that legislators have been disadvantaged in the implementation of constituency projects.

The Speaker further stated that funding was often made available to projects sited at the constituencies of those in the executive arm of government at the expense of the legislators.

On his part, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal, condemned the manner at which funds meant for constituency projects were abused in the past.

In his reaction, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, urged the lawmakers to decide on a framework that would ensure that constituency projects were not viewed as individual lawmaker’s project.

It is a conference of both Federal and state lawmakers to brainstorm on the best ways to attract and implement constituency projects.

It is hoped that the resolutions from the conference would strengthen the legal and institutional framework for effective management of the projects.

Okonjo–Iweala Announces Plan To Fast track Constituency Projects

The federal government has put in place a new plan to fast track constituency projects.

This, according to the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala  who spoke at a meeting with government officials where she stated that intervention by members of the executive constituency projects  of members of the National Assembly, is aimed at ensuring the projects are of immense benefits to the people are not abandoned.

She said that all contractors handling constituency projects will be paid upon certification from the Ministry of special duties.

Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Turaki also cautioned that all erring contractors will be sanctioned.

2013 Budget: Experts Discuss Matters Arising

Three financial Analysts, Odilim Enwegbara, Eghes Eyienyen and Martin Udogie on Saturday examined some of the challenges and controversies surrounding the 2013 budget that was recently signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan.

While speaking as guests on Channels Television’s weekend programme, Sunrise, the analyst examined the effect of the National Assembly stance of ‘no budget’ for the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), the oil benchmark controversy between the lawmakers and the presidency, constituency projects and the issue of economic growth.

Recall that President Jonathan on Tuesday assented to the 2013 Appropriation Bill, ending the long-drawn disagreement between the executive and the legislature over the bill.

The president signed the N4.987 trillion budget passed by the National Assembly into law at a quiet ceremony witnessed by a few government officials.

The budget was transmitted to the presidency on January 15 and since then, the executive and the legislature had been holding meetings to resolve some grey areas identified in the document.

Among the areas of disagreement between the executive and the legislature are the inclusion of constituency projects in the budget and the provision of zero budget for SEC.

In the video below Messrs Enwegbara, Eyienyen and Udogie discuss these issues and what the 2013 means for the Nigerian economy.

Lawmaker Defend Inclusion Of Constituency Project In Budget

The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Representative Femi Gbajabiamila has stated that lawmakers have the right to include their constituency projects in the nation’s annual budget.

According to the lawmaker, unelected Special Advisers to the President include projects they wanted funded in the budget and lawmakers who are elected by their constituencies’ and know what the constituency needs, have every right to include such projects in the budget.

Mr Gbajabiamila made the argument on Channels Television Business Morning programme where he was discussing on the lingering controversy between the executive and the legislature over the implementation of the 2013 Budget.

President Goodluck Jonathan has failed to sign the 2013 Appropriation Bill into law and sent it back to the National Assembly over some grey issues such as the inclusion of constituency projects by the National Assembly.

The President is reported to have queried the ‘padding of the budget’ by the additional N63billion added to the budget and the increase of the oil benchmark from $75 to $79.

Mr Gbajabiamila further defended the increase in the oil bench mark saying “what are we saving for when the nation has massive need for infrastructural development.”

Reps deny 56% budget implementation, claims only 34% so far

The House of Representatives has described as untrue claims by the federal government that it has implemented 56 percent of the 2012 budget.

At a press conference in Abuja on Sunday, the Spokesman of the House of Representatives Zakari Mohammed stated that only implemented 34 percent of the budget has been implemented.

The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday via the Minister of Finance confirmed that the implementation of the 2012 budget has reached 56% from 39% as at the end of May.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala further revealed that the 56% represents N324 billion of the N404 billion so far released.

Reacting to the planned impeachment threats by the lower legislative chamber to President Jonathan if the budget implementation is not at 100% before September, the former World Bank Manager stated that “there is nowhere in the world where budget is implemented 100% by September” insisting that from her experience the least any country has done is 80%.

Mr Mohammed at the press conference also noted that contrary to claims by the Minister of Finance, the introduction of constituency projects by the National Assembly is not the reason for the slow pace of the implementation of the budget.

He also said the House was not going back on its resolution to commence impeachment proceedings against President Goodluck Jonathan if he failed to achieve 100 per cent implementation of the budget by September.

The minister’s claim came as part of government’s responses to the threat to commence impeachment proceedings against Jonathan.

Mohammed noted that by the finance minister’s statement, only N324bn of the N404bn released so far for capital project had been cash-backed in July.

He said, “This was the grouse of the House. We are in the seventh month, going to the eighth month of the year; out of N1.5tn, you have cash-backed only N324bn. That is not good enough; that is the point that is being made. The budget performance is not encouraging.”

“It is not true that the Executive arm has implemented as at today 56 per cent of the 2012 budget as widely reported.

“In truth, about 34 per cent of the budget has been implemented. What the minister admitted to, as can be confirmed from her own words, is that, at best government has implemented 56 per cent of the N404bn released to MDAs.

The House of Representatives had two weeks ago, threatened to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan over the failure to implement the budget.