The Senate Thursday called for an increase in the amount given to lawmakers as funds for Constituency Projects on yearly basis.
It also however threw out a bill seeking to provide an Act to provide for Constituency and other Special Projects in the Annual Budget of the Federation and for Related Matters.
The bill sponsored by Senator Babaginda Hussaini (APC, Jigawa North-West) failed to scale to a second reading.
Constituency Project has always been a subject of controversy with attenndant poor public perception for members of the National Assembly .
Each of the 469 members has on average basis every fiscal year , gets N100m to N150m for execution of the projects in their various constituencies which senators felt should be jerked up to at least N200million per Senator .
Senator Hussaini in his lead debate on the bill before it was stood down , argued that more funds would enable them to drive constituency projects in their various constituencies and have the money appropriated for in Nigeria’s annual budget.
He explained that the constituency project is not peculiar alone to Nigeria and that it is one of the most effective ways of ensuring equitable distribution of development across the country.
He added that it helps to draw governance and the dividends of democracy closer to the people at the grassroots that they represent.
He said, “The provisions of this Act shall apply, as more specifically Object and purpose of the Bill provided for in the Act, and shall ensure that specific portions of the Federal Annual Budget are devoted to the Constituencies for infrastructural development, wealth creation, social development and the fight against poverty at the Constituency level.
The bill, however, suffered a setback when Senator Victor Umeh (LP, Anambra Central) stirred all of the controversy when he bluntly told his colleagues that the issue of constituency projects is not within their purview as lawmakers and that it is the duty of the executive.
Umeh added that if the lawmakers wanted a legal framework for the constituency project, they would be required to amend the constitution.
He said, “I know that this bill would be popular among members because, among the constituents, we have been erroneously jusged by what governors or executive can do in the states and constituencies.
“This bill seeks to infringe on the constitution which is very clear on the functions of all the arms of government.
“To do this, we would have to alter the constitution because this is not one of the functions of the legislature.”
Similarly, the Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, said the Senate operated under our constitution and this constitution is very clear on the role of the National Assembly and this is not just peculiar to our system of government; we have a similar situation in the United States.
He said, “There is no law created outside the constitution because the power of the purse resides within the purview of the legislature.
“Now, what is needed here, and which has been done since 2007 is for the president and the legislature to have a compromise.
“Normally, the appropriation process is full of negotiations and compromises, so what is needed in every appropriation process is negotiation.
“Yes, we agree we have a certain amount of money that is being provided now, we need more, so we negotiate with the executive and the attitude of leaders is different”.
Senate, however, had to rely on the institutional memories of the likes of the immediate past President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan who advised his colleagues to approach the issue with tact and wisdom -through dialogue and negotiations with the executive arm of government.
He said, “While it is true that on paper lawmakers have the power of the purse, the execution of the project lies in the hands of the executive arm of government through various ministries, Departments, and Agencies that should be lobbied.”
Having considered all sides to the argument, the Senate threw out the bill after putting it to a voice vote with the Nays having it .