The Senate is seeking the reservation of at least 20 per cent of the country’s annual budgets for constituency projects.
This followed the unanimous approval for second reading of a Bill for an Act to provide for Constituency Projects in the annual budget of the Federation and for other matters connected therewith, 2016.
If passed and assented, N1.4trillion, representing 20 per cent of the N7.2 trillion 2017 estimates which President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to present to the joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday will be for constituency projects.
The budget presentation is coming although the National Assembly has not concluded work on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), a precondition for passing the budget.
The Constituency Projects Bill is sponsored by Senator Stella Oduah (Anambra North). After its second reading, it was referred to the Senate committees on Appropriation and Finance.
The Bill is expected to be passed into law early in 2017 as the joint committee was given four weeks to submit report for consideration by the Senate in plenary.
Key provision in the bill included a proposal that at least 20 per cent of annual budgets should be dedicated to constituency projects.
Senator Oduah in her lead debate noted that the Bill seeks to grant legal backing to the provision of Constituency Projects in the Annual Budget of the Federation by a minimum of 20%.
She said, “Distinguished colleagues, one of the unique features of our democratic journey so far is the concept of ‘Constituency Projects’. Available statistics show that 70 per cent of Nigerians live in the rural areas and the intention of the bill is to ensure that good governance is delivered to these crucial areas.
“The bill is also intended to correct the top-bottom approach of governance and replace it with the bottom top approach.
“Constituency project in recent time is one of the ways to attract federal presence to our people. If not for these projects, majority of federal constituencies would not have a single federal project due to lopsided nature of project allocation in the budget.
“The constituency project is not peculiar to Nigeria. There are similar mechanisms in other developing Countries. For instance the constituency development fund has been institutionalized in Kenya, Uganda, India and Tanzania.
“Instead of vilifying the National Assembly on the constituency project, people should advocate an institutional framework for the implementation of the constituency projects as it is the case in Kenya.
“This Bill therefore is an attempt at providing both institutional and legislative frame work for the operation of constituency projects in Nigeria thereby making it part of our National Budget.”