HomeFeaturesAre constituency projects enriching lawmakers or the grassroots?

Are constituency projects enriching lawmakers or the grassroots?

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Enoch Stephen, Kano.

Capped at 100 billion Naira annually by Nigerian lawmakers, constituency projects are public projects nominated by federal lawmakers in a bid to extend the dividend of democracy to people at the grassroots level to enable them to feel the presence of the government. Constituency projects are largely positioned in geopolitical constituencies of lawmakers and are implemented by Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government.

With the House of Representatives taking N60 Billion naira and the Senate taking N40 Billion, 2.2 Trillion Naira have been spent on constituency projects since 1999 with little or no impact on the populace and is evident even as Nigeria has a prevalence of people living in extreme poverty, making the country the poverty capital of the world.

Comrade Ibrahim Zikirullahi, the Executive Director of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED), at the training for Media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on Fostering Transparency and Accountability in Constituency Project Service Delivery in Kano, described Nigeria’s current situation as unfortunate, saying constituency projects which were supposed to help spread development and give citizens a sense of belonging and benefits from public resources, has been characterized by corruption, inefficiency, and lack of accountability.

“What we have seen since Nigeria’s return to civil rule is a constituency project system that has been severely damaged by corruption, inefficiency, and lack of accountability. Projects, which should have been the outcomes of democratic decision-making and robust participation of the people at the grassroots have been thoroughly abused that they have become opportunities for politicians involved to line their pockets. Consequently, the ordinary citizen has lost hope and has become absolutely alienated from the governance process” Comr. Zikirullahi explained.

Comr. Zikirullahi further encouraged citizens to be curious about projects being nominated in their constituencies and promptly think of ways in which they could get what rightfully belongs to them, rather than complaining while they are constantly marginalized. He also highlighted the media and CSOs as key allies to work with to ensure citizen-led accountability demands, target constituency projects.

Similarly, Mr. Olanrewaju Osho the Executive Director of Inspire Nigeria Initiative, lamented the level of poverty that had been set on citizens, as certain lawmakers continue to impoverish the populace, and deprive them of their rights. According to him, people’s lives and wellbeing are degraded as some lawmakers enrich themselves with public funds meant to fast-track development at the grassroots level.

“Certain lawmakers carry out constituency projects in a manner which makes individuals see it as though they were carrying it out of magnanimity and goodwill whereas, it’s their right. They make their constituents see them as their messiah and helper and are seen as they give them minor items with a guise of empowering them.

“A good number of constituency projects have unspecified locations and cannot be tracked. This is another technique used to further deprive citizens of their rights. With the huge amount of resources being involved in constituency projects, Nigeria ought to be a role model to other countries developmentally, but the case isn’t so as the lack of accountability and transparency in constituency project service delivery is hampering development” Mr. Osho elucidated.

Mr. Osho further said “ the Burj Khalifa was built for 1.5 billion dollars, which is six and half years of constituency projects in Nigeria. Constituency budget since 1999 could have built a Burj Khalifa in the North, South West, and in the South East. Burj Khalifa is receiving around 2 million visitors annually and generates about 200 million dollars. If such is done in Nigeria, our country would not be in its current state”.

Corroborating Mr. Osho, Dr. Ismail Ibraheem, an Associate Professor of Journalism and Communication studies at the University of Lagos, stressed the need in utilizing new media technologies as a way to foster transparency in constituency project delivery in the country.

Dr. Ismail described the media as the watchdog of the society, adding that social media often called the new media is the fifth estate of the realm, even as the media is referred to as the fourth estate of the realm. He said the social media space has afforded individuals the opportunity to report issues in their communities and societies easily, with room for feedback.

“Because the social media space gives room for feedback, individuals could leverage on that mechanism as a way to give their feedback to the government on policies, decisions and other related issues pertaining to mishandling of constituency projects in their various constituencies’’.

Dr. Ismail also stressed the need for key community leaders who exercise social powers which bring about changes in communities, to actively work with online community actors so as to ensure that public officers are brought to book and made accountable to their constituencies, whenever they err, in a bid to foster positive changes in the fostering of transparency and accountability in constituency project service delivery in Nigeria.

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