Senator Ali Ndume, Chairman, Senate Committee on MDGs
•Bill now at second reading
Senator Iroegbu and Adedayo Akinwale
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Senator Ali Ndume, has disclosed that National Assembly received the sum of N900 billion since 2004, for the execution of constituency projects aimed at providing critical infrastructure to the people within their respective constituencies.
Ndume disclosed this Thursday in Abuja at a one-day stakeholders’ forum on the implementation of constituency projects organised by the Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs.
He said: “The National Assembly usually budget N100 billion for constitutes y projects every year since 2004 for the six geo-political zones. The money is domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with the Ministry of Finance; the Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs is serving as a clearing house to approve the releases for payments to the various contractors.
“The National Assembly members normally sit down to identify priority projects that are not adequately taken care of in the budget and then set aside those amounts for the execution of these projects.
“Constituency project is the most important projects for an average Nigerian as many Nigerians live in rural areas. As representative of the people; your people will not ask you the number of the bills you have passed but will ask you roads, boreholes, hospitals.., as far as National Assembly is concerned, the constituency projects is being executed by federal government in 360 constituencies and 109 senatorial districts.”
Constituency projects were initiated by the federal government to foster a good relationship between the Executive and Legislature. This usually come to the National Assembly as an Executive Act Special Intervention Fund to assist in providing basic infrastructures project to the various constituencies across the country.
Speaking further, Ndume disclosed that he had sponsored a bill, which was presently at the second reading before the senate, to put an end to the abandonment of constituency projects.
He lamented that the money targeted at priority projects, which were not adequately taken care of in the annual budget “have been rubbished by the high rate of abandoned constituency projects.”
“The Bill has passed through First Reading in the Senate and I am the one sponsoring it. But when we resume, there is freely hope that it will be passed. Constituency projects should have legal backing because even in Southern Sudan, it is called Constituency Development Bill.
“I, therefore, sponsored the bill because there is a need to have legal backing of the process, and procedures of the execution of the projects. There should be a certain percentage of the annual budget to be allocated in what I call grassroots intervention development fund,” he explained.
The lawmaker stated that most of the projects embarked upon by the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are only beneficial to the elites in the cities instead of rural development.
According to him, constituency projects was being misunderstood as people thought it was awarded for the personal use of the National Assembly members, while expressing optimism that the forum will provide input to make the bill before the senate perfect and ward off misconception about the projects.
To avoid this negative perception, he suggested that constituency projects contracts should come from the constituency where the project is being executed and it also goes a long way to empower the people
Earlier, the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN), assured full implementation of all constituency projections in the country.
Turaki said the era of abandoned projects are over and that “no stone unturned for the needed transformation of the grassroots to be realised.”
He noted that the meeting was meant to discuss and agree on the mechanisms that would fast-track the implementation of these projects and also to serve as a platform, for interaction and cross fertilisation of ideas on effective procedures for monitoring and evaluation of the projects to guard against poor and non-implementation of projects.
Turaki added that constituency projects were a noble one conceived by the members of the National Assembly as elective representatives of the people to facilitate their constituencies.
He said. “The government has decided in its wisdom to say that each member of the National Assembly has an envelope, they have an exclusive discretion of which MDAs to execute their projects. They also have exclusive rights to determine which projects are suitable for their constituencies.
“The MDAs are however responsible for the actual implementation of these projects while my Ministry will monitor, evaluate, verify implementation and authorise payments at the various stages of execution. Therefore, payments for contracts under the constituency projects will be made based on satisfactory performance in order to e sure value for money.”
The minister further clarified that contractors handling constituency project would only be paid upon authorisation by this Ministry to the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“Issues pertaining to milestone assessments and payments will also be discussed at this forum as we are aware that some of the projects are at various stages of implementation,” he said.