nassBarely a week after former president Olusegun Obasanjo accused the National Assembly of still running a secret budget, an audit report at the weekend alleged widespread fraud in the handling of over N100 billion constituency projects fund by the lawmakers in the last three years.
The report also called for immediate scrapping of the constituency projects fund and allow the Executive to handle such projects in keeping with the anti graft war of president Muhammadu Buhari. Former president Goodluck Jonathan had in a move then transferred the implementation of the said constituency projects to the ministry of special duties. It was however alleged that most lawmakers still hijack the projects and funds for its implementation.
The report of the survey which was conducted in 2015 by the Media Support Centre, a research organisation, and made available to journalists in Abuja, also exposed large scale abuse of the projects by the 469 federal lawmakers. According to the report, budget for the projects are not only shrouded in secrecy but are allegedly diverted by some lawmakers.
The Executive Director, Media Support Centre, Mr Wale Fatade told journalists in Abuja that the polls covered over N100 billion appropriated for the constituency projects for the period of 2013 to 2015 only.
According to him, “it would appear nobody but the lawmakers know which projects are being executed with these monies and how much each costs”.
The executive director argued that, “our recent survey shows that a majority of Nigerians are not aware of the presence of these projects and mostly are calling for a reform, they either want the whole thing cancelled outright or that the lawmakers bring more clarity and openness to the process by publishing what each lawmaker gets and for which project, so that Nigerians could track these projects”.
He said that, over 78 percent of Nigerians voted for immediate scrapping of the constituency project to reduce corruption.
In 2015, the Media Support Centre conducted a series of polls to judge the reaction of Nigerians to the allowances that members of the National and State legislatures collect for executing ‘ constituency projects.’ The poll, which was part of its #TheyWorkForYou programme, was conducted online and offline, through questionnaires, from July to November 2015 on a sample of 2534 people residing in 20 states. The maximum sampling error is ± 2.5%.
The surveys focused on the following issues: transparency of the execution; relevance to their communities and life quality; sustainability of the projects, as well as other major issues.
A majority of respondents – 62% of them – were not aware that lawmakers collect specific sums of money for Constituency Projects. Of those that were aware, still a majority only recently gained an understanding of the practice – this was strongest amongst people from urban areas with a higher education background and amongst people belonging to the 18-44 age group.
Most believe that the activities of the National Assembly, specifically are shrouded in secrecy and that lawmakers need to be more open about their allowances.
Some respondents (15%) became aware of these projects during the last campaign, when incumbent lawmakers took to donating sewing machines, motorcycles and computers to their constituents as part of the push for re-election. Although they never benefitted from these but they read about it in newspapers or saw the presentations on TV.
This tallies with our experience that nowhere could the lists of such projects handled by past lawmakers be found and that the National Assembly leadership actually go out of its way to keep this hidden.

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