LAGOS HERALD – Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria have frowned at the quantum amount of money spent on constituency projects between 1999 and 2018 without commensurate impact on the common man on the street.
These and many other views dominated conversations at a ‘Policy Dialogue on Situating Constituency Projects in the 2023 Electioneering Campaigns,’ hosted by LAGOS HERALD Nigeria and BudgIT, with support from the MacArthur Foundation.
The elaborate and insightful event took place in Transcorp Hilton, Abuja on Thursday and it drew lawmakers from both chambers of the National Assembly, media, CSOs, and other stakeholders.
In his remarks, Adewole Adejola, Senior Programme Officer, BudgIT said that a whopping N40 trillion has been allocated for constituency projects in 19 years but had no impact on the masses.
“In the issue of representation, we have 469 federal lawmakers, we also have Governors, House of Assembly members and Local Government Chairmen and Councillors; it is so disheartening that still, people’s needs are not being captured in the communities.
Sometimes, the legislators do not even know the situation of the people they are representing.
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“Between 1999 and as we speak, Nigeria’s Federal Government has budgeted over N100 trillion. This year 2022 is N17trillion, last year N13trillion, 2020 – N11trillion, 2019 – N8trillion, that is already over N40trillion.
And between 1999 and 2018, it budgeted over N63 trillion – that is the federal government. But within that same period, out-of-school children rose from 10.5 million to 18 million. So, ask the question, where are those over N100 trillion gone to.
So, my first observation is to say that when we score ourselves as lawmakers, we should go beyond legislative activities that we are able to engage in – the laws that we are able to give to Nigerians.
When the National Assembly passes the Appropriation, it is a law but the effect and impact of that appropriation will never be felt by the ordinary Nigerians unless it is implemented and there are clear indicators that are human-centered to show the extent to which they are actually impacting us,” he added.
He also emphasised the importance of lawmakers carrying out the ‘NEEDS Assessment’ before listing constituency projects on behalf of constituents.
“That is why ‘NEEDS Assessment’ is important. With our ‘Tracka Department,’ we monitor constituency projects in 32 states and the FCT. So we have an understanding of what is actually happening across the country.
We also see that empowerment projects take more than 60 per cent of the N100 billion allocation for constituency projects every year. Of the amount, the Principal Officers like the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senate Leader and his counterpart in the House etc, take the largest share.
Like the Speaker, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, his share of projects is more than that of lawmakers from two states combined. I stay in Lagos and if I measure the developments in Surulere Federal Constituency 1 that he represents, the funds being allocated to the Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP) cannot be compared to the projects on ground. So people don’t know.”
On his part, a Deputy Director at the MacArthur Foundation, Dayo Olaide said the performance of the budget passed over time is yet to lessen maternal mortality or add value to the country’s educational system.
“In fact, for many of us, we applauded the National Assembly when the House of Representatives and the Senate commenced the process of developing for themselves a legislative agenda because we all felt this was a turning point and provided an opportunity for us to engage them and to hold them to account.
I think in terms of making laws, many of us will say, yes indeed; whichever sector or part of the economy you look at, there is progress. For example, in the sector that I am very much interested in; which is governance, there is progress. You can talk about the Public Procurement Law which was never there.
You can talk about the Anti-Corruption Act and the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Nigerian Extractive Transparency Initiative Act, and several important legislations that are in place.
It is time that Nigeria moves from number of bills passed, to addressing maternal mortality and education of the girl child,” he stressed.
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He continued, “but the significance of any law is not in the paper that has been signed. It is in the impact that it is able to make in the lives of the ordinary Nigerians and I think that is where the biggest deficit is.
So that when you look at our education or health sectors, it is difficult to argue that there has been progress. Even though we can see progress in the number of laws, whether at the federal or state, there has been progress in all of these areas.
Now, I did a very quick back-of-the-envelope calculation there. Otherwise, we will be patting ourselves on the back, and say two years ago, the budget was passed in March the following year, but this year’s budget is even in December before the end of the current year.
It is success and progress. Yes, we sound commend the National Assembly for doing that, but Nigerians are not concerned about those passages. Nigerians when they wake up every morning, they are asking themselves, what does this budget mean for me as a person?”
Speaking earlier, Professor Ladı Hamalai, former Director-General of National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) who was the lead presenter appealed to Nigerians to stop making petty demands from legislators.
“The concept of over-accountability creates a lot of fatigue and distractions to legislators whereby constituents demand for petty cash and help rather than demand that legislators carry out their core mandate.”