OrderPaperToday – The lawmaker representing Egbeda/Ona-Ara Federal Constituency of Oyo state in the House of Representatives, Mr. Akin Alabi, has revealed that to sometimes meet the need of his constituents, he uses his personal funds for projects.
Alabi, who is on his first term in the House, disclosed that such gesture is important not just for the benefit of the constituents, but also to shore up goodwill in the event of a re-election bid.
He stated this while speaking on OPEN – Online Parliamentary Engagement Nigeria- a virtual platform designed by OrderPaper Nigeria for convening conversations between representatives in parliament and citizens.
The maiden edition which held on the 18th of May, 2020 also had on the panel, Ms. Nimah Arigbabu, a Public Policy Expert and OrderPaper Nigeria Executive Director, Oke Epia, who moderated the session.
Alabi, while responding to questions surrounding citizen engagement on the workings of the legislative arm, said that constituents expect lawmakers to provide certain infrastructure to assist them even though such is not within their remit.
He said attempts to clarify the roles and expectations of lawmakers to constituents have failed to connect because “the people still don’t want to care.” Mr. Alabi however stressed that like he had been doing before his election into office, he would continue to provide selfless services to his people.
According to him, “I’ve been having to use my personal savings to build infrastructure so I can count them amongst the things I did when I want to campaign again. Because I cannot rely on bills to get votes. A lot of projects I have commissioned are from money from my pocket to do things for the people in my constituency,” Alabi stated.
He however noted that there is a need for citizens to understand the main functions of the legislators.
On his constituency relations, Mr. Alabi said he maintains a robust interface with his people. He said: “Personally, my home and office is always open. People come to my house every day and also to my office in my constituency to make complaints about transformer, roads, and school fees. Even if you don’t solve their problems totally, you have to spread the resources amongst all of them. These are the people that would continue to vote for you.”
However, Ms Arigbabu described such as hand-outs as unsustainable on the long run and asked lawmakers to continue to inform their constituents about their actual responsibilities.
She said: “Our situation is interesting because most of the problems we are facing have been there overtime. When you want to focus on one area, you see that another area has issues. To be able to solve these, you need to let the people understand. Your job as a lawmaker is accountability. Inform people why they are there, what their jobs are, so people don’t run to their lawmakers for the little issues.
“If I were a lawmaker, I would hire competent people to explain the proper places to channel these complaints. We have to remind them to go to these establishments and let them do the work they are supposed to do. You shouldn’t be giving out hand-outs. Hand-outs are not sustainable.”
The OPEN webinar, which was streamed live on Facebook, attracted Nigerians from all walks of life who engaged the guest panelists on parliament-people interfaces especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.