Features/Spotlight

Checkmating deficiencies in constituency projects

Supreme Desk
28 Jun 2022 9:21 AM GMT
Checkmating deficiencies in constituency projects
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It is on record that in the past 10 years, N1 trillion has been appropriated for constituency projects yet the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of Nigerians can hardly be seen.

Constituency projects are among the numerous means by which the federal government intends to spread development to the nooks and crannies of the country by involving lawmakers in the National Assembly.

Of course, in a democratic setting, people are given opportunity to determine how their leaders are elected and governed and the electorate and citizens in turn look up to government for democracy dividends.

The National Assembly's response to this by their constituents for development and federal presence demanded and got "constituency projects'' fund.

But many constituents across the country have been made to believe by their representatives to see constituency projects as being personally funded by political representatives.

The concept of constituency projects is an evidence of the government's good intentions for the grassroots to enjoy dividends of democracy.

Yet, the grassroots have been denied the use of these life-changing projects because most of their representatives have abused the good initiatives of the government and turned it to veritable conduit for corruption.

President Muhammadu Buhari, while speaking at the National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in Public Sector organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences (ICPC) in conjunction with the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, observed that there was little to show for N1 trillion budgeted for constituency projects of the National Assembly members in the last 10 years.

"That is why I have reiterated many occasions that corruption is an existential threat to Nigeria, it is a major threat to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and socio-economic transformation we are all working hard to bring about in Nigeria.

"It is on record that in the past 10 years, N1 trillion has been appropriated for constituency projects yet the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of Nigerians can hardly be seen.

"The first phase report of tracking these projects by ICPC confirms our worst fears that people at the grassroots have not benefitted in terms commensurate with the huge sums appropriate for constituency projects since inception,'' the president said.

For instance, in Benue South Senatorial Zone, Odiapa Council Ward in Obi Local Government Area of the state, residents recently cried out for the completion of the abandoned construction of the River Obi bridge.

Mr Gabriel Adekpe, the youths' leader of the community, said that they had suffered over the years because of lack of bridge to link them to the headquarters of the local government.

He said that no fewer than 57 persons had died of drowning in the last 13 years while attempting to cross the river to sell their farm produce in the market located at the headquarters of the local government.

"We have gone through a lot in this community, especially during rainy season, some us were born to meet this challenges,'' he said.

Adekpe said that Odiapa council ward that has a population of 65, 000 people mostly farmers are completely cut off from accessing the Headquarters of Obi Local Government whenever it rains because of the high volume of water in the river.

Adekpe said that a pregnant woman and others fell off the make shift wooden bridge when it collapsed recently, noting that it took the intervention of youths to save them from drowning.

"Our lives matter, people are drowning here every year, what have we not done? We participated in electing our leaders in this state by voting for them massively, this is what we have got in return, we have been alienated and left to our fate in our own state,'' he said.

Mr Egiri Obaike, the President of Odiapa Development Association, appealed to authorities concerned to consider the plight of the community and build the bridge across the river to ease their movement and avert continuous loss of lives.

Also, Mr Edwin Omirigbe, a stakeholder in the community and a retired permanent secretary from the Benue civil service, described the experience of the community while crossing the River Obi as horrendous.

Omirigbe said that he made several efforts when he was in the service to see to the construction of the bridge but to no avail, appealing to both federal and state government, international donors, and wealthy individuals, among others, to come to their aid.

"The issue of Obi River is like thorns in my flesh, I made several efforts toward the construction of this bridge, it was awarded twice by the previous administrations in Benue, but due to lack of fund nothing was done,'' he said.

Similarly, the Village Head of Odiapa Council Ward, Chief Peter Ate, appealed to the state government and wealthy individuals to lend a helping hand to his community by constructing the bridge to ease their movement.

But a source says a contract for the construction of the bridge across River Obi was awarded to Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) and was part of the constituency projects for 2021 budget of the senator representing the area.

Mr Musa Dauda, Zonal Intervention Projects Tracka, Benue, expressed displeasure about the poor execution of some constituency projects in the state.

He alleged that the abandoned bridge was a constituency project of Sen. Abba Moro, representing Benue South and awarded to BCDA in 2021.

Moro also confirmed by telephone that the construction of River Obi bridge was part of his constituency project in Benue South Senatorial Zone but could not be constructed because the money allocated for it was not enough to construct the bridge.

He, however, said that the contractor of the project, Border Communities Development Agency, expended N30 million originally budgeted for the construction of the bridge to rehabilitate Odiapa road.

"I think I put more than N30 million there, in the process of inspecting that road, they told me about how that river has become a death trap for the community and I said will construct it and I put money there in 2022.

"The contractor with the BCDA said that the N30 million would not be enough to construct the bridge, therefore we gave a bill of quantity to construct the road so that if I'm able I should put more money in 2023 so that they can go and do the bridge. That's what they have done,'' he said.

Similarly, observers note that the N100 million- contract awarded to BCDA for the rural electrification of Otokwe and Ijege communities in Obi Local Government of Benue and the emergency repair of the dilapidated Otukpo-Adum-Oju road awarded to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in 2021 to the tune of N141 million were also abandoned.

Mr Jesse Orokpo, a community activist based in Obi Local Government Area, confirmed that nothing was done about the projects in the state.

He noted that bandits, kidnappers and armed robbers have taken advantage of bad nature of the road to unleash attack on innocent people of Obi and Oju local government areas of the state.

The people of Odiapa Community, however, appealed to Moro to use his office to mobilise the contractor to the site to start the construction of River Obi bridge to ameliorate the plight of the community.

They also pleaded with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to mobilise the contractor back to the site to start emergency repair on Otukpo-Adum-Oju road to halt incessant killings, kidnapping and attacks.

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