The Senators called for an increase in the funds appropriated for the Constituency Projects.
The Senate has stepped down the second reading of a bill seeking legal backing for Constituency and special projects in the annual budget of the federation by a minimum of 20%.
Among other things, the bill seeks to ensure that specific portions of the Federal annual budget is devoted to the constituencies for infrastructural development, wealth creation, and the fight against poverty at the constituency level.
The bill titled: “A Bill For an Act to Provide for Constituency and Other Special Projects in the Annual Budget of the Federation, and for related matters, 2023 (SB. 08)” was sponsored by Senator Babangida Hussaini (APC, Jigawa North West), during Thursday’s plenary.
the bill, which was introduced in the Senate on 20th July, 2023 was rejected after robust debate and the majority of Senators voted against it.
The lawmakers argued that the bill is already part of the yearly budget and would be unnecessary for it to be made an Act.
They, however, called for an increase in the funds appropriated for the Constituency Projects.
In his lead debate, Senator Hussaini said, “The bill is intended to correct the top-bottom approach of governance and replace it with the bottom-top approach.
“If not for these projects, majority of federal constituencies will not have a single federal project due to the lopsided and opaque nature of project allocation in the budget.”
The Deputy President of the Senate, Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano North) who presided over the plenary, clarified that the bill is already part of the annual budget and it would be unnecessary to spend time debating on something that has already been achieved.
“I just want to tell us the obvious that the content of this bill is already part of our budgetary system for every year.
“For those who have been here including the ranking senators, you know, this is part of our tradition now that a certain amount of money is always provided every year to take care of what this bill intends to do..
“It is already part of our system, I will allow someone who knows the system very well to explain to us so we don’t waste much time on it because it’s something that has been achieved already.”
Senator Victor Umeh (LP, Anambra Central) in his contribution, opined that the reason legislators continue to perform executive functions that are outside the purview of their legislative duties is because of the pressures placed on them.
He reminded that if the lawmakers wanted a legal framework for the constituency project, the constitution would require an amendment.
“We are beginning to be assessed along what governors or executives can do in terms of projects attracted and executed in our constituencies, but this bill seeks to infringe on the Constitution.
“The Constitution has provisions on the functions of all the arms of government. This one that we’re trying to go into now will require constitutional alteration because this is not one of the functions of the legislators. It is because of the pressure we have been subjected and through the understanding with the Executive, that the National Assembly has been able to extract constituency projects.
“This bill recognises that there is no law backing this practice and if you recall, two days ago, we discussed this and I know that the Senate President discussed this issue and said he will be negotiating for an improvement or what will be made available as funds for constituency projects for lawmakers,” he added.
Speaking on the challenges facing constituency projects in the country, Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauch Central) attributed it to the high turnover, which results mostly in abandoned projects.
“You may recall that after the 2003 election, we had a rate of no return up to 82% which means only 18% of the then members of the National Assembly, came back to the National Assembly.
“The only way we are going to intervene is making the constituents understand that every project that comes from the national budget will have a hands meet.”
On his part, Senator Tahir Monguno (Borno North) described funding allocated for constituency projects. as “grossly inadequate”, adding that it was responsible for the low implementation of projects
“The major challenge over the years towards the implementation of the constancy project, based on my experience is, for example, the issue of defined funds.
“As a member of the House of Representatives, throughout my five terms, I got only 100 million naira as a constituency fund, which was grossly inadequate. Since 2003 when this concept started, it is 100 million I have been getting.
“Considering the inflationary trade, even members from Kano State don’t even get up to 100 million in the House of Representatives. They get about 70, 60, or even 20 million because of the number of members in the House of Representatives.
It is grossly inadequate,” he posited.