Lawmakers should not use constituency projects to enrich themselves – ACE
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