My colleague at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) participated in the recent senate public hearing on the proposed Constituency Development Catalyst Fund (CDCF) Bill, which according to its sponsor; Senator Buhari Abdulfatai is aimed at executing projects that would promote government presence in each of the state constituencies.This Bill obviously is in conflict with the creation and functions of local government administration in the country.In Nigeria, constituency project has become a source of financing to those in authority, privileged enough to directly allocate the scarce resource, either to themselves or their cronies. Since the constituency project debate began, there have been a lot of myths, misunderstandings, and confusions about the constituency project administration in Nigeria.
The idea of a constituency fund committee to be supervised by the respective law maker is a misplaced role; arguably borne out by the desire by law makers to show visible evidence of “dividends of democracy” to their constituencies. The other is the claim by the law makers that they are well placed to know what their constituencies really want, this argument is defective. I think law makers, should know better that there is no constituency that solely belongs to them. For instance, the chairperson of a local government area is in-charge of that local area constituency; the governor of the state is in-charge of the state constituency. The Nigeria constituency falls within the purview of the President, who was elected by votes from every constituency in the country.Let me say that the duty of law makers is to make laws for the good governance of the country. The constitution has rightly provided that demarcation; which is called ‘separation of power’. There are three tiers of government, the executive, legislature and the judiciary, each having a specific role under the law. Nigeria is a federal state – national, state and local government administration – with each tier having specific exclusive or concurrent responsibility.
In our system of government, the local government authority is the true third tier of the country’s federalism. Among the functions of local government is the construction and maintenance of roads, streets, street lightnings, drains and other public highways, parks, gardens, open spaces, or such public facilities as maybe prescribed from time to time by the House of Assembly of a State. For me, these functions align with the aim of CDCF “executing projects that would promote government presence in each of the state constituencies.” Local government exists to be the government closest to the people, in which case, the tier that promotes government presence at each state constituency. Law makers cannot usurp constituency to them nor claim that they are closest to the people.
By introducing the law on constituency fund – which isn’t a very bad idea, but situating the supervision with the national assembly members is an obvious departure from the traditional constitutional role of the legislature under the doctrine of separation of powers, and usurpation of the role of the executive by the legislature. It is important to state, that the challenge of development in rural areas led to the creation of local government areas. Local government systems in the country has been incapacitated dues to conflicting laws and CDCF will be another reason while local government in the country hasn’t lived up to their expectation, in terms of rural development.
Let’s avoid another round of disputes between members of the executive and the law makers on the issue of inclusion of constituency projects in the budgets. In the past, budgets have been delayed because of the inclusion of constituency projects. Rather than create a CDCF, the law makers can ensure that the country’s local authority function optimally, by promoting laws that will engender true decentralization in the country. The law makers should promote laws that enhance the functionality of the local government system in the country.
Like CDD, I am also concerned that the Bill challenges the autonomy of the local government administration and I do not support the approach of the Bill to circumvent the strictly oversight role of the legislature stipulated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.