Dyepkazah Shibayan, Abuja
The routine confrontation between the legislature and executive over the issue of constituency development projects (CDP) can effectively be arrested with proper synergy between both arms of government through better structuring and alignment of projects.
Key speakers at a one-day National Summit on Political Representation and Constituency and Zonal Intervention Services, in Abuja, Monday, agreed that the idea of the CDP with constituency impact was not a bad one, but that the is the mode of conception and implementation triggers suspicion which eventually leads to controversy.
The Summit attended by members of the National and State’s Assemblies with speakers from the executive arm and legislators from other countries, was organized by the House of Representatives and Conference of Speakers.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara; Speaker of the Kenyan Parliament, Justin Muturi; Former Speaker Aminu Tambuwal; Budget and National Planning Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma and Senator David Harley of the Kansas Senate, USA, all agreed on the essence of the CDP but with different perspectives on ways of structuring such projects to make them more effective.
Speaker Dogara while presenting what he termed the opening paper of the day noted the controversies that trail constituency projects in Nigeria and asked participants to address the necessity or otherwise of legislators’ insistence on having funds for CDPs and whether or not it is right to assist constituents in securing and executing such contracts.
While the Kenyan Speaker and the Kansas Senator gave their experiences as obtained in their respective countries, Budget and Planning Minister, Udoma, said the problem in Nigeria was basically the personalization of such projects which often leads to non or poor completion, with no long lasting impact on the constituents.
A former Senator himself, Udoma admitted that legislators often come under pressure from their constituents to defend their representation through concrete projects even though the core responsibility of legislators is to make laws for the good governance of the states and country.
Faced with such pressures, Udoma said legislators push for CDPs to defend their classification, but noted that often such projects are not properly aligned with the developments plans of the government or in some cases are poorly executed.
While acknowledging that the concept itself was not bad, Udoma suggested that for it to be effective and impactful, all development projects, including constituency projects, should be integrated into the medium and long term plans of government.
“National Assembly members are encouraged to look three to four years ahead, determine the development needs of their constituents, and have them integrated into the National Plan”, he said while adding that it could be done even on zonal basis.
This, the Minister said, can be achieved through proper conception of generally beneficial project and effective liaison between the two arms of government at the early stages of budget preparation, instead of slotting them in at the budget presentation and defense stages.
Bringing up constituency projects at the last stages of the Budget process, he noted, suffers from a number of inadequacies including bad judgment, poor project valuation, implementation timing and eventual abandonment if the initiators fails to return to the legislature subsequently.
Specifically, Udoma said why the executive declines funding of some of the projects is mostly because a number of them are usually items that fall under the ambits of State and Local Governments.
He there called for a marked improvement in synergy between the two arms of government in the sustainability of management of constituency projects in Nigeria.