Investigation NASS members set to pocket N1.4 trillion in 2017 as constituency allowance

By Olaolu Oladipo, Lagos
Investigations conducted by BLACKFACE has revealed that members of the National Assembly are set to pocket the princely sum of N1.4t out of projected budget estimate of the Federal Government for next year.If all go well, each member is expected to make N3b each from the scheme when a bill legalising the initiative is finally passed into law.
The bill is seeking to reserve 20 per cent of annual budgets of Nigeria for its members to execute constituency projects exclusive of the executive arm of government.
The document which has passed through its second reading at the upper legislative chambers is seeking for a legal latitude to allow members spend such from the budget.
A member of the Senate, Stella Oduah who is promoting the bill suggested allocation of at least, 20 per cent of annual budgets allocated to constituency projects.
She made the suggestion in a statement she signed and made available to newsmen on Friday in Abuja, saying constituency projects were meant for rural development and that there was the need for institutional and legislative frameworks for the execution of such projects in the country.
Oduah who became controversial when she approved the sum N250m for the purchase of two BMW bullet proof jeeps as Minister of Aviation said that the move, when materialised, would ensure that such projects benefit a cross session of the inhabitants of a particular area the projects were located.
“Any funding under this bill shall be for a complete project or a defined phase of a project and may include the acquisition of land.’’
She explained that the bill would correct misconceptions that lawmakers were directly in control of constituency projects.
Though the bill is still in its embryonic stage, it would still needs the concurrent approval of the lower chambers, the Federal House of Representatives and the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari before passage.
Going by the projected budget of N7.2tn for 2017, which President Muhammadu Buhari is to present to the joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday, the Nigerian lawmakers are expected to get the sum of N1.4tn allocation for constituency projects.
If that figure of 1.4t is divided amongst members on equal basis, then each lawmaker is expected to corner a princely sum of N3b next year on constituency projects.
The issue of propriety or otherwise of the executive arm of government giving allowance for constituency projects have been topical Since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999.
This is because the issues surrounding constituency projects have always been mired in one controversy or the order.
It was particularly so during the Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo. The principle behind the introduction of constituency projects may be good, what is distasteful however, is the abuse it is some times subjected to.
During President Obasanjo’s presidency, constituency projects controversy took a life of its own. Initially, National Assembly members were more or less blackmailing the Executive over the projects and the manner of their execution.
Obasanjo dismissed constituency projects as conceived by the lawmakers as a misnomer. For him, projects by the Executive are constituency projects because they are sited in constituencies. The former president subsequently withdrew the execution of constituency projects from the lawmakers.
He resolved that though National Assembly members may choose to include constituency projects in the budget, the Executive will decide what to executive and where such projects will be located. Obasanjo thereafter concluded to do away with special grant to lawmakers for constituency projects.
When the two chambers of the National Assembly attempted to impeach Obasanjo, non implementation of budget as passed by the National Assembly featured prominently as one of the impeachable offences the lawmakers listed.
As if that was not enough, the lawmakers went a step further to make full implementation of the budget as passed by the National Assembly a binding law. For them, if there is any reason the budget cannot be implemented as pass and assented to, the Executive should come back to the National Assembly to explain.
The cat and mouse relationship between the two arms of government over constituency projects continued until Obasanjo left government.
When President Umaru Yar’Adua came, he restored constituency projects and allowed the lawmakers to decide the locations of the projects in their constituencies. At a stage, the lawmakers were also allowed to indirectly nominate contractors to handle the projects.
When President Goodluck Jonathan came, the situation did not change much. Although the lawmakers were stilled allowed to choose the sites of projects, they did not know much about how the contractors were selected.
The latest controversy over constituency project was sparked by comments credited to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal that the 2016 constituency projects as captured in budget may not be implemented.

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