The controversy over constituency intervention projects by lawmakers again yesterday pitched the Legislature against the Executive, with the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo disagreeing with the House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara over the functions of lawmakers.
The two and others who spoke yesterday at a one-day National Summit on Political Representation and Constitutional and Zonal Intervention Services organized by the House of Representatives and the Conference of Speakers in collaboration with the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) took different positions on the vexed issue of constituency projects.
The vice president, represented by his Special Adviser on Political Affairs, Babafemi Ojudu, said the primary function of the legislature to make laws has been misconstrued, hence the need for the lawmakers to use the summit to properly define their roles for their constituents.
Osinbajo urged the lawmakers to clearly define what constituency projects are meant “so that constituents will not conceive lawmakers’ primary role as building roads, providing water, and providing electricity. Most of those roles belong to the executive but often it is misconstrued.
“The primary role of the legislator is to make laws, but for most constituents, these to them does not matter. No matter the fine points of law you raise, no matter the bills and motions you raise in all your deliberations the constituents believe that until you provide them with boreholes, until you provide them with generators or transformers and until you build roads you have not achieved much. That is nothing.
Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola maintained that constituency projects are not provided for in the constitution, noting they are instead conventions.
Speaker Dogara however, disagreed with the position of the Vice President, Fashola and the SSG, insisting constituency projects were constitutional.
He explained that the idea of constituency intervention projects arose as a result of the demand by Nigerians for equitable and even distribution of infrastructural development projects.
Relying on Sections 14 (3), 15 (4), 16 (1) and (2), and Sections 13 (1) of the 1999 constitution, Dogara said it was a significant constitutional duty and responsibility of a legislator to ensure that projects are evenly distributed to all federal constituencies in Nigeria.
The speaker maintained that, “At least in the last three budget cycles Mr. President has always included constituency projects in the Appropriation Bills sent to the House, including that of 2016.
So, the Executive in effect initiates the projects under Section 81 of the constitution, although with the tacit understanding of the Legislature”.
Dogara said, “The Appropriation Act is a law of the federation that contain the constituency projects, which are all domiciled in the respective MDAs. These MDAs process for tender and bidding by contractors like any other project and are awarded to qualified contractors in fulfillment of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.”