In this piece, SAMUEL ODAUDU examines how agencies of government can effectively monitor the implementation of public policies and programmes being undertaken by relevant ministries, departments and agencies of government in the country.
There are recent reports that have refreshed the issue of constituency projects always being canvassed by federal law makers, especially with regard to their implementation. Recently, an audit report carried out by Media Support Centre alleged that over N100billion meant for execution of various constituency projects was misappropriated by senators and members of the House of Representatives in the last three years and therefore called for abolition of constituency project.
It would be recalled that former President Goodluck Jonathan had issues with members of the National Assembly over the same problem during the 2013 Appropriation debate. The former president wanted the concept cancelled but the law makers stood their ground. In order to find a soft ground for the two parties, the executive arm of government insisted that it was its constitutional duty to provide social infrastructure, not the job of law makers who are vested with power to make laws, Jonathan thus transferred the implementation of all constituency projects captured in that year’s budget to the Ministry of Special Duties.
According to the executive director of the Centre, Mr Wale Fatade, “It would appear nobody but the lawmakers know which projects are being executed with these monies and how much each costs. “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 outrightly or that the lawmakers bring more clarity and openness to the process by publishing
what each lawmakers get and for which project so that Nigerians could track these projects.” Over 78 percent of Nigerians, according to him, are in support of scrapping of the so-called constituency project so as to reduce corruption.
Expectedly, the audit report did not go down well with law makers. The chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas promptly denied that there was any fraud in relation to constituency project funds. “It is obvious that the media support centre do not know how constituency projects are managed. Law makers are never given a penny to carry out constituency projects. Constituency projects are appropriated to the
relevant MDAs. No cash is given to a law maker”, he said.
But one important point in the concept of constituency project is the question whether the people whom the constituency projects are designed to benefit are actually carried along. Do they know that it is their right to know what project they should expect as captured by the budget? Are they aware that they also have the right to complain to the right authorities through proper channels to hold their representatives accountable for breaching budgetary provisions for the development of their areas?
It is interesting to note that in recent times, the National Human Right Commission, NHRC, has been carrying out the advocacy and enlightenment campaign to the people, informing them of their rights, training them on how to demand for their social and economic rights where necessary. These programmes have been held across the states of the federation.
In Gombe, Kano, Ekiti, Edo, Plateau, Niger, Sokoto, Sokoto, Federal Capital Territory, and a host of other states, the programme is on-going. Beyond the human right enlightenment, there were also skill acquisition training and empowerment across board. In Sokoto State, for instance, Governor Aminu Tambuwwal attended a session where the executive secretary of NHRC took the lead in the events.
The executive secretary has emphatically made it clear that “the Commission was out to empower Nigerians with the right information tools to help them know their right, report where there are breaches, and write the Commission formally to undertake necessary investigation and appropriate defence free of charge where necessary”, he said.
The concept of the nationwide programme states that “The National Human Rights Commission is one of the national institutions that served as implementing agencies for the execution of constituency projects in different parts of Nigeria. The projects, which were captured in 2015 Appropriation Act, were designed to empower Nigerians about knowing their rights and understanding simple process of defending and seeking remedies whenever there are breaches”.
It is noteworthy that the concept of constituency projects and the issues surrounding their implementation come under social security because of their implications on good governance, human rights and development.
The main objectives of the programme are to bring to the front burner the issues pertaining to the right to social security especially for the senior citizens in the society; bring together a cross section of senior citizens in the Federal Capital Territory and sensitize them on their rights and means of seeking remedies in case of breach; introduce basic concepts of human rights and explain in simple language its applications and means of accessing remedies to people in the area and introduce basic concepts of human rights and explain in simple language its applications and means of accessing remedies to people in the area
In the FCT, Abuja, for instance, the focus was to use the platform to educate the government and general public on the need to prioritize the needs of the aged, galvanize existing institutions dealing with the aged and reorient them for optimal service delivery, as well as to establish and strengthen rapport between the stakeholders for effective coordination and service delivery for the aged and their families.
Law makers and other representatives of the people in the six area councils – Kwali, AMAC (Garki Village), Bwari, Abaji, Gwagwalada (Anagada and Zuba), Kuje (Kuchiaku) – and participated in the Programme which included talk shows and interractive session with different communities.
The traditional institutions in the Federal capital territory proved very valuable in the identification of senior citizens within their domains. It is instructive to note that the team of programme officers from the commission held productive sessions with members representing the AMAC/Bwari as well as Member representing Kuje, Abaji Kwali and Gwagwalada federal constituencies in the House of Representatives and it enabled the stakeholders to agree on modalities for the execution of the project.
Public notices were issued through radio and television channels in the Federal Capital Territory. Meetings with the chairman of Kuje, Abaji, Gwagwalada, and Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC.
Positive responses to the Commission’s programme nationwide indicate that the era of frivolous or inappropriate constituency project by members of the National Assembly, as well as poor implementation will soon be a thing of the past as Nigerians are now being trained to pace appropriate demand on their social rights.