By Ogheneuwvede Ohwovoriole in Abuja
The National Assembly has acknowledged the need to scale up engagements and broad-based participation of citizens in the design and implementation of constituency projects in the country through the use of mobile application technology.
The position of the legislature tallies with a firm position canvassed by other critical stakeholders from the media, civil society organisations, community-based organisations and representatives of the executive branch of government among others concerned with the constituency projects scheme.
This emerged at the end of a one-day interactive stakeholders’ roundtable on the constituency projects scheme (ConsTrack) organiszed by OrderPaper Nigeria in Abuja recently. The event was organised with support from USAID’s Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (SACE) project.
The acknowledgement by the National Assembly was expressed by the Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Constituency Outreach, Hon. Bede Eke.
Speaking at the roundtable, Eke, who commended OrderPaper Nigeria for the initiative, said it has become necessary to seize the opportunity of the proposed mobile application to scale up sensitisation, engagements and appropriate exchange of information and ideas about the controversial constituency projects scheme.
The lawmaker expressed delight at the timely intervention of such initiatives as ConsTrack at a time the issue of constituency projects is generating controversies as a result of lack of sensitisation and informed understanding by all stakeholders.
Describing OrderPaper Nigeria as the emergent liaison between the people and legislators, Eke said: “First, let me thank OrderPaper. The other day, it was a colloquium on the budget; today, it is on the constituency projects. If I have the power, I think the National Assembly should engage the organisation because you are now like a liaison between the lawmakers and the people.
“First there is a need for sensitisation of the people to know the role and the limits of the legislators, so as to remove this constant pressure on physical projects. Two years into President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, people asked for what he has done, ministers pointed at roads and other projects. What about lawmakers, they are also asked to give account of their stewardships, so there is nothing wrong if we attract constituency projects.”
“Take my constituency for example, if not for my efforts in attracting projects, the Minister for Works, Power and Housing has no single knowledge about the needs of my people. I am not speaking for the National Assembly, but I am speaking as one with experience in both state House of Assembly and currently in the House of Representatives, and I can tell you we don’t award projects.
“I am not disputing certain lapses or abuse by some lawmakers, but should we be responsible for them? In fact, what we need is sensitisation on the roles of the lawmaker. We need to educate the people on our primary role, and let the people know it is not the role of the lawmaker to build roads and boreholes.”
The round table which was an interactive session had in attendance members from civil society organisations, government agencies such as the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), community-based organisations, IT expert, and members of the media sector.
Similar views were expressed by different speakers at the roundtable. Mr. Ayodeji Ajayeoba (Jaye Gaskia) of the Praxis Centre, on his part, called for citizens’ audit of the scheme after some good understanding and sensitisation have been undertaken in the course of the ConsTrack project.