Senate Pushes For Increased Allocation For Constituency Projects

The Senate has called for an increase in the amount given to lawmakers as funds for constituency projects.

The Senate, however, thrashed a bill seeking to provide an Act to provide for Constituency and other Special Projects in the Annual Budget of the Federation and for Related Matters.

The bill sponsored by Senator Babaginda Hussaini (APC, Jigawa North-West) on Thursday failed to scale to a second reading.

The lawmakers argued that more funds would enable them to drive constituency projects in their various constituencies and have the money appropriated for in Nigeria’s annual budget.

Constituency Project has always been a subject of controversy with plenty of misgivings and even misrepresentations particularly due to the fact it’s usually shrouded in secrecy.

In his lead debate, Hussaini explained that the constituency project was not peculiar to Nigeria, adding that it was one of the most effective ways of ensuring equitable distribution of development across the country.

He added that it helped to draw governance and the dividends of democracy closer to the people at the grassroots level.

The bill was very popular among federal lawmakers with many of them speaking in favour of it and seizing the opportunity to press for more money for constituency projects within their constituencies.

He said, “The provisions of this Act shall apply, as more specifically object and purpose of the bill provided for in the Act, and shall ensure that specific portions of the Federal Annual Budget are devoted to the constituencies for infrastructural development, wealth creation, social development and the fight against poverty at the constituency level.

“The list of proposed projects to be covered by this Act shall include only projects on either the Exclusive List or those on the Concurrent List to obviate against any breach of Constitutional Provisions.

“The member shall submit the project proposal to the Appropriation Committee for input into the Budget.”

While expressing his support for the bill, Senator Mohammed Monguno expressed strong reservations about the sum of N100m he said was allocated for the constituency project when he served as a member of the House of Representatives, complaining that the fund was grossly inadequate.

He said, “As a member of the House of Reps, I got 100m which cannot do anything with the level of inflation ongoing in the country. In some places like Kano, lawmakers don’t get up to N70m because of their numbers.

“I am now in the Senate, and I don’t know how much I will get. Some people said I will get 100m or 200m, I don’t even know but that amount is grossly inadequate.

“I fully align myself with the fact that a part of the constituency would be budgeted for constituency project.”

Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi Central) also aligned his voice with the majority and explained that the constituency project was one of the reasons many lawmakers didn’t return to the National Assembly.

The bill, however, suffered a setback when Senator Victor Umeh (LP, Anambra Central) bluntly told his colleagues that the issue of constituency projects was not within their purview as lawmakers and that it was the duty of the executive.

Umeh added that if the lawmakers wanted a legal framework for the constituency project, they would be required to amend the constitution.

He said, “I know that this bill would be popular among members because, among the constituents, we have been erroneously judged by what governors or executive can do in the states and constituencies.

“This bill seeks to infringe on the constitution, which is very clear on the functions of all the arms of government.

“To do this, we would have to alter the constitution because this is not one of the functions of the legislature.”

Umeh added, “It is because of the pressure we have been subjected to and due to the understanding of the law, we have been able to agree on what we call the Zonal Intervention Project.

“I know the Senate President said that he would intervene in the funds available for what we call the constituency project.”

Similarly, the Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, said, “What is needed here, and which has been done since 2007 is for the President and the legislature to have a compromise.

“Normally, the appropriation process is full of negotiations and compromises, so what is needed in every appropriation process is negotiation.”

Having considered all sides to the argument, the Senate threw out the bill after putting it to a voice vote where the nays had it.