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BUDGET PADDING, CONSTITUENCY PROJECTS: Are the executive, legislature back to annual row over budget?




Issues of budget padding, and constituency projects have resurfaced, making the news as another circle of budget submission, defence and approval plays out between the executive and legislative arms of Nigerian government.

Controversies over the Implementation of constituency projects initiated by members of the National Assembly have been in the news lately, after the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) began beaming its searchlight on the projects, and confiscating equipment that were hitherto meant for constituents, from private homes, some belonging to lawmakers, across the country.

The seizures and probes initiated by the anti-graft agency were somewhat discussed in subdued tones as not much was heard both from the executive and the legislative arms of government, until this week.

President Muhammadu Buhari, while speaking at a two-day summit on the fight against corruption in Abuja, seemed to have stirred more controversies, after alleging that the N1 trillion allegedly released for National Assembly members’ constituency projects have not yielded any impact in the lives of the people.

The President, who directed the ICPC to go after contractors that collected money for the projects without doing them and their collaborators in government, said: N1tn has been appropriated in the last 10 years for constituency projects, but the impact can hardly be seen.”

However, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajamiala, in his contribution to a motion raised by the Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elemelu, disputed the figure given by Buhari, adding that the report by the ICPC was capable of having unintended consequences.

He also expressed the fear that such “unsubstantiated claim could pitch Nigerians against the National Assembly.

Gbajabiamilrecommend: “I think it is a breach of our collective privilege as a House and not one person. My concern is the unintended consequences of (the) words spoken. These are words emanating from a report by the ICPC.

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“There could be unintended consequences that could come out of it. You put people’s wellbeing at risk. I (don’t) feel it is okay to use the National Assembly as the weeping boys. The fact is that there is the FOI bill.“The ICPC could easily invoke its power of investigation and look at releases as compared to what was budgeted.

“There is a difference between money budgeted and money released. It is as simple as ABC.”

The question however is, will the latest controversies affect the timely passage of the 2020 budget, as the likelihood of allegations of budget padding, a constant feature during the life span of the 8th National Assembly, may come to the front burner again.

Will the All Progressives Congress (APC), which has a commanding majority in both chambers of the National Assembly, be able to control the expected outburst that the current controversies may create?

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