Reports: Closing infrastructure gaps via Constituency Projects

By Obike Ukoh,

President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2019 raised an alarm that zonal intervention projects (popularly called Constituency Projects) attracted by members of the National Assembly for their constituencies were not having the desired impact.

Buhari spoke at a National Submit on “Diminishing Corruption in Public Service,” organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) in collaboration with Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. He said that Constituency Projects had gulped N1 trillion in 10 years with no direct bearing on the lives of the ordinary Nigerians.

“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 ordinary Nigerians can hardly be seen,” he stated.

Members of the National Assembly reacted swiftly to the President’s comment. The then Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, clarified that execution of the Constituency Projects were carried out by government agencies.

“We have always said the Constituency Projects are not done by the senators or members of House of Representatives. They are domiciled in the executive, who executes them.

If projects were not seen, in spite huge amounts expended, the ministers and agencies under them should explain as the executives are the people executing these projects.”

On his part, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker, House of Representatives, noted that the figure emanated from a report by ICPC. “The ICPC could easily invoke their power of investigation and look at releases as compared to what was budgeted,’’ he advised.

The speaker called on ICPC and other anti-graft agencies to carry out proper investigation on it, stressing that there is a difference between money budgeted and money released.

It may be necessary to bring to public attention for scrutiny that the Senate Chief Whip, Sen. Orji Kalu, and Rep. Benjamin Kalu, the Spokesman of House of Representatives, recently inaugurated projects they attracted through Constituency Projects. Orji Kalu represents Abia North, while Benjamin Kalu represents Bende Federal Constituency. Orji Kalu invited the Senate President, Sen. Ahmed Lawan to inaugurate his projects.

Kalu at the inauguration of the projects said that more than 50 road projects, hospitals ,renovation of schools and water boreholes were provide under his Constituency Projects. He said that the provision of numerous infrastructure across the senatorial zones was made possible through the backing of President Buhari.

He said that the achievements were recorded because of Buhari’s approval for the prompt release of capital budget through the Sovereign Wealth Fund to service rural infrastructural projects captured in the 2020/2021 budget.

“I will like to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for making the completion of these projects possible. President Buhari is funding the construction of these projects through the Sovereign Wealth Fund.

At the inception of his second term in 2019 President Buhari mandated us to facilitate the construction of road projects in our rural communities in order to complement his agricultural revolution initiative

Some of the projects attracted by the senate chief whip through his Constituency Project are: Agbaja Nkporo Road (7.5km), in Ohafia LGA; Uturu Road (2 km) in Isuikwuato Local LGA; Obi Chima Road (2 km) in Isuikwuato LGA; Umu Imenyi Road (2km) in Bende LGA and Amankalu Alayi Road (2 km) also in Bende LGA. Others are: three boreholes in Agbaja, Amuri and Enugwu Nkporo, in Ohafia LGA and 4 km Ugwu Rubber-Amaokwe-Item Road in Bende LGA, among others.

Orji Kalu, in a letter of apology to the communities, where the senate president could not go physically to inaugurate the projects reiterated that with the support of his constituents he constructed about 53 roads in Abia North.

“ It will definitely not be possible to commission all the roads but we will open up as many as we can. We shall fix a new date for the good people of Nkporo for a visit soon,” he said.

The senate chief whip added: “I am glad that all the communities in Abia North have a project built by me and these facts are verifiable by the good people of Abia North. We will continue to be realistic and focused on our intentions for the people.”

Lawan who spoke during the inauguration of the projects, described Kalu as an asset to the Abia North Senatorial District and the South-East.

In separate speeches at the event, Lawan underscored the strategic importance of access roads to the development of the nation’s rural communities. He said that roads facilitate the transportation of agricultural produce from the hinterlands to urban centres.

“The roads are meant to open up the rural communities. Our country cannot develop if the rural roads are not built to enable our farmers to move their harvests to the cities,” he said.

The senate president applauded Kalu for attracting the projects to his constituency and described his efforts as a demonstration of love for his people.

“The projects have practically proved to the communities what the All Progressives Congress (APC) government can do. It shows that in spite of our political leanings the interest of our people and communities is uppermost in our minds,” he said.

He urged the constituents to endeavour to reciprocate Kalu’s efforts and selfless service at the appropriate time, in order to enable him to do more.

He also spoke glowingly about Kalu, describing him as one of the best and brightest lawmakers in the senate. Orji described the projects as a fulfilment of his 2019 campaign promise to the benefitting communities. He charged the communities to sustain their support for APC, assuring that plans are under way to extend some of the roads beyond two-kilometers. He said that besides roads, he had attracted water and several school renovation projects from the Federal Government.

At Alayi, Kalu promised to provide the people with electricity and water, having built a four-kilometre road in the area.

The Constituency Projects of Rep. Benjamin Kalu were inaugurated by Senate Chief Whip, Sen. Orji Kalu.

The projects are roads and the renovation of Agbamunzu Town Hall. The one kilometre roads are: Amaogbu Road, Agbonmiri Road, Ndi Okorie Ukwu Road, Okpororenyi Nkalunta Road.

The President General of Bende Town Union, Mr Loveday Kalu commended Rep. Kalu for attracting the projects. He said that prior to the provision, motorists and road users found it difficult to navigate the roads, especially during the rainy season. The president general described Rep. Kalu’s representation at the National Assembly as exceptional.

Another resident, Chinasa Okorie, said the House of Representatives spokesman has proved beyond reasonable doubt that he went to the National Assembly with the interest of the people at heart.

He extolled both Sen. Orji Kalu and Benjamin Kalu for working harmoniously to ensure completion of the projects, which he noted has great economic benefits to the people of the area.

Facilitator of the projects, Rep. Kalu said he invited Sen. Orji Kalu to inaugurate the roads because “ he is the man who taught me the systematics of constructing roads.’’

Rep. Kalu said that the roads are very important to the economic elevation of the communities. Rep. Kalu said the ultra modern civic centre was sponsored by him and a philanthropist from the area. He said that the projects will enable the people to have a place to hold events, meetings and other social gatherings.

On his part, Sen. Kalu commended Benjamin Kalu for a job well done. He said that Rep. Kalu has performed excellently in delivering the dividends of democracy to the people of Bende.

“Ben Kalu is my representative, whom I’m very pleased with, because he has performed excellently well.

“The beauty of democracy is continuous and Benjamin Kalu has proven that he is a forthright man who loves his people the same way I love them and I told him that he must work like I.

“When I was governor I provided Infrastructure of this kind, but we had minimal funds.

“But now we have a President that completes the budget cycle. I served as governor for eight years but never saw a governor who completed the budget cycle. But President Buhari has always completed the budget cycle from 2019 to 2021.

On the town hall project, Sen. Kalu said that it would foster unity amongst the community and commended Rep. Kalu for the laudable initiative.

Unarguably, Constituency Projects by National Assembly members are beneficial to communities. The various perceived abuses can be checked, as suggested by Sen. Kalu, through verifying the projects by the appropriate government agencies, including the ICPC. (NAN)

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