By Dipo Olowookere
The Nigerian Senate is requesting for 20 percent of the national budget earmarked for constituency projects ostensibly to be handled by them.
These projects are what the lawmakers use as their empowerment programmes in their various areas.
These include construction of feeder roads, boreholes, market stalls, schools rehabilitation, sewing machines, grinding machines, knitting machines, motorcycles, tricycles and others.
Already, a bill to make this a law for the executive to do this has passed second reading at the Senate.
If this bill becomes law, it means the constituency projects will get at least N1.4 trillion from the proposed N7.3trillion budgeted for 2017 fiscal by President Muhammadu Buhari pending approval from the National Assembly, which will get the appropriation from Mr Buhari next Wednesday.
At the floor of the Senate on Thursday, where the bill was debated, its sponsor, Mrs Stella Oduah, noted that, “One of the unique features of our democratic journey so far is the concept of ‘Constituency Projects’.
“Available statistics show that 70 percent of Nigerians live in the 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. Constituency project in recent time is one of the ways to attract federal presence to our people.”
Mrs Oduah argued that if not for these projects, majority of federal constituencies would not have a single federal project due to lopsided nature of project allocation in the budget.
“The constituency project is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. There are similar mechanisms in other developing countries.
“For instance, the constituency development fund has been institutionalized in Kenya, Uganda, India and Tanzania,” the former Aviation Minister turned Senator said.
Also, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Mr Olusola Adeyeye said, “This is not money given to Senators or Reps, it is money meant for specific projects. At the moment, it is N100 billion for 109 Senatorial Districts and 360 Federal constituencies. That is 1.5 percent of the Federal Budget.”
In his remark, the Senate President, Mr Bukola Saraki, said constituency projects ensure equity in the distribution of federal projects.
“I don’t think there is anything that ensures equity in the country like the constituency projects. Our responsibility is to provide the projects to our constituencies, full stop,” Mr Saraki said.
The Senate President then referred the bill to the committees on Finance and Appropriation for further legislative actions with a 4-week time frame.
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