Osinbajo Seeks Defined Role for Legislature

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  • Speaker, Fashola disagree on legality of constituency projects

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called for a clear definition of the role of the legislators to making laws for the country and oversight functions on the executive arm of government.

This is as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, differed on the roles of legislators and constituency intervention projects.

Speaking at the ‘National Summit on Political Representation, Constitutional and Zonal Intervention Service’ in Abuja monday, Osinbajo said the primary role of the legislature which is to make laws had been misconstrued, as legislators are now expected to build roads, and provide infrastructure in their constituents.

He therefore urged the participants at the summit, which was organised by the House and the Conference of Speakers in collaboration with the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), to properly define and outline their roles for their constituents.

Osinbajo who was represented by his Special Adviser on Political Affairs, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, reiterated that providing infrastructure is the role of the executive.

“The primary role of the legislator is to make laws, but for most constituents, these does not matter. No matter the fine points of law you raise, no matter the bills and motions you raise in all your deliberations, the constituents believe that until you provide them with boreholes, until you provide them with generators or transformers or build roads, you have not achieved much. That is nothing. So, I would advise that your roles be clearly defined as people who supervise the executive and not execute projects,” he said.

Fashola, in his address, said constituency projects are not provided for in the constitution and are therefore just conventions. He cautioned lawmakers against usurping local council projects in the pursuit of constituency projects.

“Therefore, in seeking to find perhaps the legal framework for the operation of constituency project, we must avoid the risk of crowding out, where legislators at the national level are made strictly to implement constituency projects that involve primary health care centres which are projects meant for the local councils,” he said,
Dogara however disagreed, noting that constituency projects are constitutional, arising from demands by citizens for equitable and even distribution of infrastructural development projects.

He cited sections 14 (3), 15 (4), 16 (1) and (2), and sections 13 (1) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, and added that it is a significant constitutional duty and responsibility of a legislator to ensure that projects are evenly distributed to all federal constituencies in Nigeria.

“Some pundits have criticised constituency intervention projects on the ground that it offends the constitutional separation of powers doctrine as legislators are perceived to be dabbling into exclusive functions of the executive arm. This criticism misses the point.

“At least in the last three budget cycles, the president has always included constituency projects in the Appropriation Bills sent to the House, including that of 2016. So the executive in effect initiates the projects under S. 81 of the constitution, although with the tacit understanding of the legislature,” Dogara added.
The Speaker added that the Appropriation Bills, which the constituency projects are included in, are laws.

“It is erroneous to contend that there is currently no legislative framework for constituency projects in Nigeria…These MDAs process for tender and bidding by contractors like any other project and are awarded to qualified contractors in fulfillment of the Public Procurement Act, 2007,” he added.

The Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. David Babachir Lawal, at the event, harped on the readiness of the government to block all loopholes in the execution of constituency projects which allow for the siphoning of funds.

He noted that past intervention efforts have failed due to embezzlement, diversion, impunity and wastage of funds.