Economy

Senate seeks N2.1tr for Constituency projects

Members of the National Assembly would henceforth be allocated N2.1trillion to execute constituency projects if a Bill that seeks to set aside 20 percent of the nation’s annual budgets for that purpose becomes law.

The Senate on Wednesday passed for second reading a bill which seeks to legalize constituency projects and also dedicate at least 20 percent of annual budgets for lawmakers’ zonal intervention projects.

Going by the N10.594trillion 2020 Budget recently passed by both chambers of the National Assembly, the lawmakers are expected to get at least N2.1trillion, representing 20 percent of the budget for constituency projects.

The Bill titled: “Constituency projects (budgetary provisions) Bill, 2019” was sponsored by Senator Stella Oduah (Anambra North)

In her lead debate, Senator Oduah noted that one of the unique features of the nation’s democratic journey so far is the concept of ’Constituency Projects’.

According to her, available statistics show that 70 percent of Nigerians live in rural areas and the intention of the Bill is to ensure that good governance is delivered to these crucial areas.

“The Bill is also intended to correct the top-bottom approach of governance and replace it with the bottom-top approach,” she said.

She noted that constituency projects have become a veritable means of attracting federal presence to various communities in Nigeria

“If not for these projects, the majority of federal constituencies would not have a single federal project due to lopsided nature of project allocation in the budget,” Oduah said.

According to her, constituency projects are not peculiar to Nigeria as similar mechanisms have been institutionalized in Kenya, Uganda, India, and Tanzania.

“Instead of vilifying the National Assembly on the constituency project, people should advocate for an institutional framework for the implementation of the constituency projects as it is the case in Kenya.

“This Bill, therefore, is an attempt at providing both institutional and legislative framework for the operation of constituency projects in Nigeria thereby making it part of our National Budget,” Oduah added.

She further insisted that while it is true that Local Government councils have the responsibility of developing local communities, “the Federal Government has the overall responsibility of providing a federal presence in these areas through developmental projects.

“There is no way this can be achieved without the input of the parliamentarians who are the representatives of the people at the federal level.”

In his contribution, the Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, supported the Bill.

According to Abdullahi, who represents Niger North, “I think it is only very fair to ensure that every part of this country has that sense of belonging, those little interventions as democratic dividends.”

He added: “Like the lead debater said, there are a lot of interpretations, misinformation and even disinformation out there and it is very obvious that if we are to look at the intent of the Nigeria constitution that states we must act in a manner that gives every constituency a sense of belonging and that national feeling, then you agree with me that it is only through the instrumentality of the constituency projects that every part of Nigeria is getting, no matter how little, something that comes from the federal government.”

Senators approved that the Bill be read a second time when it was put to a voice vote by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

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