Protest:Senate dismisses calls to jettison constituency projects, vows to continue projects

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The Senate at the resumption of plenary session after its Sallah break on Tuesday, vowed to resist attempts to scrap constituency projects.

The decision, which was taken after a voice vote by the lawmakers, followed a motion by Sen. Barnabas Gemade (APC-Benue).

While presenting the motion, Gemade said that the move followed a protest by some people
at the National Assembly (NASS) entrance.

He said “some Nigerians are capitalising on the ignorance of others to pitch them against the National Assembly.

“This morning as I drove into the National Assembly for resumption, I saw a number of luxury buses with so many people carrying placards at the gate, condemning the National Assembly over constituency projects.

“The people were equally demanding that constituency projects be stopped.

“I feel that whoever is behind this demonstration is poorly informed about what constituency project represents to a Nigerian legislator.

“This project was introduced to give a sense of belonging to all Nigerians. The N100 million captured in the 2018 budget for constituency projects is to cover over 469 constituencies and this money translates into a paltry 0.4 per cent of the capital budget of the nation.

“I cannot see how such insignificant percentage of the total budget will affect the implementation of the budget.’’

The lawmaker said that prior to the introduction of constituency projects, many constituencies were not covered by projects being executed by the Executive.

He added that “ministers and other officials of government, including permanent secretaries and director-generals of some agencies have the privilege of implementing projects in their areas of jurisdiction and we who represent the people have nothing to show for it.

“Therefore, the introduction of constituency projects has helped our constituents to feel government’s presence.”

Many lawmakers also emphasised the need to continue to support the existence of constituency projects in view of its impact on the lives of the people.

The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, said protests had been merchandised, owing to unemployment and poverty.

He said “unemployment and poverty has forced some people to find a means of survival by organising protest.

“They are protest contractors. They go to government officials whom they believe are opposed to the National Assembly and collect money and pay a paltry sum of N500 to youths to protest.’’

Sen. Atai Aidoko (PDP-Kogi) said that rather than call for the scrapping of the project, Nigerians should call for more funding, given the importance of the projects to the people.

He said “this is another attempt to pitch the people against the national assembly ignorantly.

“Late President Musa Yar’adua saw the need for constituency projects and graciously captured it in the budget.”

The President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, said it was important to continue to educate the public on the importance of constituency projects and to correct misconceptions about it.

He said lawmakers only attract projects to their constituencies to ensure federal presence and equitable representation of projects in the country.

He added that “such projects ensure equity and justice because for as long as you cannot find Federal Government presence in the constituencies, it is corruption.

“How can you justify certain constituencies not having federal projects when we spend N2 trillion every year on capital projects and there are parts that do not have any project at all.

“Some Nigerians are being used because of poverty in the country and what is worrisome is that those
who are using the others are part of government.”

He said that the current development where some people were causing misunderstanding between the Legislature and Executive would not promote harmony between the two arms of government.

He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the development and call those responsible to order.

He added that “there is no secret in this. If you go out there, these protesting boys will tell you who is sponsoring them.

“I really do not understand how we will promote unity with this sort of activities. It is not about us as individuals but about the institutions. If we continue to weaken the institution, it will hunt us when we need it to stand for democracy.’’

Sakari urged those with scores to settle to find other means of doing so instead of causing confusion. (NAN)

Biola Lawal

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