Propositions For Cross River NASS Members To The 10th NASS (IV)… BY AGBA JALINGO

In Breaking News, Opinion

Opportunity Statement

It is on record that in the past 10 years, over N1.5 trillion has been appropriated for constituency projects in Nigeria, yet the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of ordinary Nigerians can hardly be seen. Peeved by the ugly development, the ICPC in May 2020, declared that it would prosecute recalcitrant legislators, who are gifted to diverting funds meant for constituency projects.

The Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said in an interview that the Commission, in its bid to look at the kind of corruption that affects ordinary people, would investigate the execution of constituency projects.

While informing Buhari of this ugly development during a visit in 2020, Prof. Owasanoye told the President that: “Sir, we discovered that some agencies of government are favorites for the embedding of constituency projects irrespective of their core mandate and capacity of these agencies to deliver or supervise projects. Most notorious in this regard are the Border Communities Development Agency, and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria.

“Duplication of contracts with the same description, narrative, amount, and location awarded by the same MDA to bring the amount allocated within approval threshold of the executing agency, or to expend allocation to sponsor of the constituency project.

“Many of the contracts were inflated yet poorly executed. Substandard items were used against specifications in the Bill of Engineering Measurements and Evaluation thus diminishing the value of the projects to the intended beneficiaries. Many projects were also not built to specification.

He also pointed out that: “Empowerment and capacity building projects are very popular, but are highly prone to abuse and very difficult to track. We find that almost 50 percent of budgetary allocation to zonal intervention projects goes to these opaque activities. Empowerment items are sometimes stashed away by sponsors and not distributed till the next budget cycle while in some cases, the same items are re-budgeted and duplicated.

“Many community members believe that sponsors pay for projects from their funds, rather than from public treasury. Thus they are beholden to the sponsor rather than claim their rights.”

Propositions

  1. Instead of stuffing a few notes into envelopes and distributing on camera to constituents as constituency bursary intervention, why not commit such funds to start properly managed Educational Trust Funds, open to public donations and scrutiny? This isn’t difficult. It begins with a meeting of your team of professionals and a team from the State Scholarship Board.
  1. There is an urgent need for the amendment of the Federal Scholarship law to allow sub-national scholarship boards to explore and expand their funds net and accountability feedback, with a view to broadening their scope of intervention. Someone has to draft that amendment.
  1. Instead of waiting for phone calls from desperate sick constituents asking for help with emergency medical bills, why not collaborate amongst the members going to the 10th NASS from Cross River State, to kick-start a subsidized health insurance scheme for vulnerable members of our communities? A pilot scheme can begin with an HMO and a hundred subscribers from each Federal Constituency and Senatorial District, mostly women of childbearing age, and expand the net there-upon. This will grow to cover other constituents over time.
  1. Instead of giving handouts to people to pay rent, can we begin to consider a legislative framework for alternative and affordable mass housing options and models for our communities? Things like fireproof, affordable, prefabricated settlements that will solve the housing problem on a sustainable and incremental basis?
  1. Can we also begin to consider legislation that will support the building of hi-tech functional innovation and entrepreneurship clubs and centers and clubs, in our constituencies and ensure they function efficiently by challenging them to produce implementable products on realistic timelines?

These are actually things that require discipline to do, and they tarry before maturation, and politicians generally believe that such things don’t help them to win the next election. Yet in the long run, it is the mushrooming of these structures that will solve society’s problems on a sustainable basis.

The only person I know who ever commanded his followers to cast their burdens on him and meant what he said was, Jesus Christ. But he was not voted into power. The people we solve our problems by themselves. They solve them through systems and structures. Without building systems, there is little they can do on their own. That’s why they haven’t been able to solve any of our problems because they keep trying to do it through personal bank alerts and their back pockets. But they are actually meant to midwife the building of structures, systems, and processes that will perpetually solve our problems, even when they leave office.

And today, they have so pauperized us that we no longer know the difference between service and charity. But may God give us understanding to discern the difference and be able to make our leaders serve us accountable.

….To be continued…..

Citizen Agba Jalingo is the Publisher of CrossRiverWatch and a rights activist, a Cross Riverian, and writes from Lagos.

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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