Law­mak­ers should not use con­stituency projects to en­rich them­selves – ACE

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - By Muideen Olaniyi & Nu­rudeen Issa

Nma Odi is the Act­ing Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of Al­liance for Cred­i­ble Elec­tions (ACE-Nige­ria). In this in­ter­view, she speaks about the re­cent pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tion of the re­port of track­ing of cap­i­tal projects in six states, the fight against cor­rup­tion and the can­tan­ker­ous is­sue of con­stituency projects. Ex­cerpts:

What is the mo­tive be­hind this project em­barked upon by ACE to track the level of im­ple­men­ta­tion of cap­i­tal projects in the 2015 bud­get in six states?

This project is pro­mot­ing cit­i­zens’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in the fight against cor­rup­tion and for good gov­er­nance in Nige­ria. It’s a project of Al­liance for Cred­i­ble Elec­tion and it is be­ing spon­sored by the Euro­pean Union (EU) through the United Na­tions Of­fice on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and the United Na­tions Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP). The project is build­ing a move­ment of cit­i­zens and cit­i­zen groups to fight cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria. It is a dual ob­jec­tive project; build­ing a move­ment and build­ing their ca­pac­ity. And it’s be­ing done through track­ing of cap­i­tal projects, be­cause we keep on hear­ing that peo­ple are cor­rupt. But they are say­ing, “what is the ev­i­dence?” And then, the ev­i­dence is, year in year out, we see money be­ing al­lo­cated for con­stituency projects of politi­cians.

To­day, it is the same thing. So, we now de­cided that we will have a data base - a fact sheet that shows the ar­eas that we see that cor­rup­tion and cor­rupt prac­tices are tak­ing place. And we will use it to teach the cit­i­zenry that this is why we do not have the wel­fare and the se­cu­rity that our rulers are sup­posed to give us; be­cause all the al­lo­ca­tions that will en­able us en­joy the div­i­dends of democ­racy, good gov­er­nance, wel­fare and se­cu­rity, do not get down to the peo­ple.

So, we now se­lected six states that cut across the six geopo­lit­i­cal zones: Ji­gawa is rep­re­sent­ing North-west; Gombe is rep­re­sent­ing North-east; Ek­iti is rep­re­sent­ing South-west; Benue is rep­re­sent­ing North-cen­tral; Cross River is rep­re­sent­ing South-south; and Imo is rep­re­sent­ing South-east.

How many projects were you able to track?

In all, we have iden­ti­fied 171 cap­i­tal projects be­cause our peo­ple are still work­ing in the states. It was 182. But dur­ing the anal­y­sis of the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and track­ing of re­port, we found out that some of the re­ports in Benue were re­peated. So, we have to down­grade Benue that was 49. They are 38 now. Imo that was 64 has gone up to 79. So, what we do when we go to the com­mu­ni­ties is to iden­tify cap­i­tal projects. We go back to the com­mu­ni­ties to meet with the stake­hold­ers; tra­di­tional rulers and rul­ing coun­cils, re­li­gious rulers, women groups, youth lead­ers, per­sons with dis­abil­ity. We have a series of meet­ings with them where we tell them that this project is from the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment for the good of your com­mu­nity and it is not a gift from any sen­a­tor or hon­or­able mem­ber. In to­tal, we have mo­bilised 899 cit­i­zens in the states and we have built the ca­pac­ity of 1,232 stake­hold­ers in the six states.

What are your find­ings so far?

From our re­sults, we found out that very few of the cap­i­tal projects have been ex­e­cuted. Some of them are very poorly ex­e­cuted, many of them are on­go­ing, but there are no con­trac­tors on the sites. Many of them, we see equip­ment ly­ing there and they have not been in­stalled to be put into use. In some com­mu­ni­ties, we see bore­holes dug with gen­er­a­tors there, but they have not been put into use.

In Cross River, for in­stance, we have so many protest let­ters, which are em­bed­ded in our re­port. The com­mu­ni­ties are now ask­ing ques­tions; what hap­pened to this cap­i­tal project? When they asked a former fed­eral law­maker, they moved the con­trac­tors back to the site.

For­tu­nately, in Imo State, they al­ways have a very big board, say­ing ‘I, sen­a­tor this, at­tracted this project to this and that com­mu­nity’, which is miss­ing in other states. In other states, there is a mes­sage telling them ‘I am giv­ing you this cap­i­tal project’. We pho­to­copied these projects and gave it to them (the peo­ple).

Do you have records of projects you were not able to track?

We were not able to track some of the projects. In Imo State, we didn’t see about 11 projects. In Cross River, it’s about 16 cap­i­tal projects we didn’t see. In Ek­iti, we didn’t see about six projects. Some of them do not have lo­ca­tions. Many of them, like the Ek­iti projects, were em­pow­er­ment projects, the pro­vi­sion of Keke NAPEP and sewing ma­chines for women. And no­body ac­cepted hav­ing seen them ex­cept in some com­mu­ni­ties that said about three peo­ple got Keke NAPEP in Ek­iti and they were all po­lit­i­cal youth lead­ers.

As far as we are con­cerned, those cap­i­tal projects that you gave some youth lead­ers and few women lead­ers in your po­lit­i­cal party are on­go­ing projects. If there is a pro­vi­sion to give 100 Keke NAPEP to the youth or 300 and you gave three peo­ple, it’s on­go­ing and we are ask­ing them to go back com­plete them. We have re­quested to meet the speaker, Se­nate pres­i­dent and some min­istries, de­part­ments and agen­cies (MDAs) to give them our re­ports to join us by ask­ing ques­tions on what hap­pened to the money re­leased for the ex­e­cu­tion of the cap­i­tal projects.

With your assess­ment and the ques­tions raised by this study, will you ask gov­ern­ment to stop us­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the ex­e­cu­tion of con­stituency projects?

We have the pro­cure­ment act, which is there for them to use. If you use it, you will get value for money and you will see that peo­ple who are qual­i­fied will be given the job to ex­e­cute. But when you al­low our rep­re­sen­ta­tives to bring the con­trac­tors to you as MDAs, it’s not for free; it is give-and-take.

This project is not to name and shame. That’s why we did not go to say N20 tril­lion was al­lo­cated for the cap­i­tal projects in these six states and it ended up in peo­ple’s pocket. No, we are not say­ing that. What we are say­ing ac­tu­ally is that the MDAs, you have power to award the projects af­ter go­ing through the pro­cure­ment process. We have to award the projects to com­pe­tent hands. As you award it, they have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to mon­i­tor the ex­e­cu­tion of the cap­i­tal projects in the lo­ca­tions. I mean the MDAs. The Na­tional As­sem­bly also has the re­spon­si­bil­ity of over­sight func­tion to mon­i­tor the ex­e­cu­tion of these cap­i­tal projects. They should stop us­ing con­stituency projects to cor­ruptly en­rich them­selves. When you don’t fol­low the rules, there will be temp­ta­tion to do the thing the wrong way.

Nma Odi, Ag Sec.Gen, ACE

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