By Emmanuel Onwubiko
In few months from now, the tenth session of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is expected to be inaugurated by a brand new president of the republic, if all things being equal and if democracy is not imperilled by the gross incompetence of the current persons wielding the powers that-be in Abuja.
But just before the National Assembly’s election and the inauguration of the next session of the senate next June, there are considerable debates regarding the performance status and existential relevance of the current elected legislators at the upper chamber of the legislative house in Abuja.
There are also, groundswells of skepticism and doubts surrounding the implementation of constituency projects and the quality of bills introduced and passed successfully by the legislators.
Many of the law makers are simply sleeping at the two chambers of the National Assembly just as many have been caught red handed stealing from the public till, the resources meant for the implementation of constituency projects.
However, few of the Senators stand out as good examples of those who understand the objectives for which their constituents elected them in representative capacities to fight for their constituency rights. These few Senators are self made and are accomplished to an extent that they do not need to steal from the public treasury to remain wealthy.
Amongst these very few individual Senators that are working assiduously to represent their constituents in an excellent way, is the former governor of Abia State- Orji Uzor Kalu who currently occupies the high profile position of chief whip of the 9th session of the senate of the federal Republic. Orji Uzor Kalu is about one amongst the very few individuals in today’s politics that was wealthy, indeed very Wealthy before stepping into the political arena. He is reputable and kind-hearted.
We will peruse through his record in the senate and then assess his chances of a second coming back to the Senate as the candidate of the All Progressive Congress. Already, the PDP which is the ruling party in Abia State has nominated a failed former Senator and a paper weight to stand in as the opponent of Distinguished Senator Orji Uzor Kalu in next year’s poll. This clearly is a walk over if Senator Orji Uzor Kalu continues to work for the greatest good of his constituents as he has done in the past few Months.
But first, let us analytically peruse through the concept and essence of the constituency projects’ initiative and also read through the investigative findings of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other allied matters commission (ICPC) on the use and misuse of the constituency projects funds by the legislators currently.
The original idea of constituency projects was marred in controversy because legally, members of the legislative house are law makers and not members of the executive arm of government whose primary mandate is to build infrastructural projects all over the federation or the specific states. But this idea of constituency projects got off the drawing board because the law makers said the voters do not repose their trust on them during re-election because the voters do not understand how their elected representatives will spend four years and has no meaningful public useful projects to their names. This was how the National Assembly started the concept of constituency projects which unfortunately has suffered spectacular failure and setbacks due to corruption by the legislators.
Constituency funds, essentially, are those monies set aside or appropriated for certain projects in a particular constituent, which are more often than not nominated into the year’s appropriation by the representative of a constituent, reports Victor Agi.
Cosmas Ofoma Urama Esq writing on the constitutionality or otherwise of constituency projects sees the concept as a “developmental project sited in the constituencies of members of house of the representatives and senators by various ministries, departments and agencies of the government as appropriated in the budgets of federation or state.” To this end, the obligations of lawmakers with regard to the process of conception and implementation are simply those of nomination of such projects and oversight to ensure funds are released for their proper execution.
This intervention would leave the burden of explaining the constitutionality or otherwise of constituency projects to our “learned” friends, but to simply point out that the 1999 Constitution is clear about the roles of the executive and legislative arms of government in Section 4 and 5.
In Section 4 (1&2) of the 1999 Constitution: (1) The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives. (2) The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation or any part thereof. And in Section 5 (1&2), (1) The executive powers of the federation shall be vested in the president and may be exercised by him either directly or through the vice president and ministers of the government of the federation or officers in the public service of the federation and shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this constitution, all laws made by the National Assembly and to all matters with respect to which the National Assembly has, for the time being, power to make laws.
From the foregoing extract of the law, it is unambiguous says the writer, what roles the legislatures should play with regard to the issue of constituency projects. But today, indications are that lawmakers nominate and implement constituency projects, which is clearly against the nation’s constitutional provision and the principle of separation of power as spelt out in Sections 4, 5 and 6, which defines the roles of the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary respectively.
Historically, the subject of constituency projects came into the nation’s political equation during the early years of the President Obasanjo’s administration, when legislatures voted money for certain choice projects in the appropriation bill. There were rifts between the Executive and the National Assembly, but the dispute eventually became a non-issue as the then executive cowered as it needed the legislature to equally grease its own hands on other matters, say Victor Agi.
Till date, the constituency project “arrangement” has continued and has, arguably, created more problems than the development the initiative was supposedly meant for, with budget padding and mismanagement of earmarked funds by lawmakers becoming the order, amid abuse of constitutional provisions, say Victor Agi affirmed.
But like most good ideas that ended up being misused and abused, the constituency projects have become Constituency nightmares and cashcow for some Corrupt legislators.
In August last year, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) through its Constituency Projects Tracking Group (CPTG) initiative, recovered and sealed items worth N117m, which were stashed away in a compound in Mkpologu Town, Uzo-Nwani Local Council, believed to be owned by the senator representing Enugu North Senatorial District, Chukwuka Utazi.
The ICPC explained that the tricycles, motorcycles and grinding machines recovered were meant to be distributed in Utazi’s constituents, to empower them as part of the Federal Government’s efforts to alleviate poverty.
A statement signed by the ICPC’s spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa said, that contract for the purchase of the items was awarded on January 23, 2018, under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as part of Utazi’s constituency projects.
“The items covered by this amount (N117m) and recovered from the legislator are 168 and 51 motorcycles and tricycles respectively. They were discovered stashed away in a compound in Mkpologu town of Uzo-Nwani Local Government Area, believed to be owned by the Senator.
“Additionally, ICPC recovered 203 grinding machines, 60 motorcycles and 5 transformers in the compound which had been procured under another constituency project. Thereupon the Commission impounded all the items and sealed the senator’s compound,” the statement added.
Not long after the shock finds by the ICPC, Utazi, who was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes between 2015-2019 distributed the items. This development forced some constituents to accuse the ICPC of “questionably” approving Utazi to hurriedly distribute the seized items, as a way of protecting the senator. The accusation was made at an anti-corruption sensitisation programme, at Sunshine Hotel, Enugu.
A few days after, the anti-corruption agency’s drive to recover items from lawmakers, who allegedly failed to properly use funds allotted for projects, which they nominated, took them to Akwa Ibom State.
There, hospital equipment worth millions of naira, which were meant for a constituency project, were recovered from the premises of Mma Obot Foundation, allegedly owned by the former governor of Akwa Ibom State and Minster of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio.
The CPTG team, according to a statement by Okoduwa, after the raid recovered a “dialysis machine; ECG monitor; oxygen regulator; anaesthetic machines; power generators, and other hospital equipment meant for a cottage hospital in Ukana, Essien Udim Local Council of Akwa Ibom State.”
She added that the ongoing project tracking exercise by the ICPC and its partners, through the CPTG, has led to multiple recoveries of items, hospital equipment, vehicles and funds, and also informed that six tractors meant for the use of farmers in six local government areas of Bauchi Central Senatorial District, were also uncovered.
The tractors recovered from a farm belonging to Isa Misau, the ICPC said, were already showing signs of wear and tear, “formed part of the N430m contract for the supply of pumping machines and other agricultural machinery to farmers in the senatorial district, which was awarded in 2015, by the Federal Government as part of the senators’ constituency projects across the nation.
“The CPTG team for Bauchi discovered that N76.6m was paid for the tractors in December 2015, but they were only supplied in March 2016… They were supposed to have been distributed for the use of farmers in each of the six local government areas in the senatorial district that included Misau, Dambam, Ningi, Warji, Darazo and Ganjuwa. It was found out that the tractors had not been distributed as required in the terms of the contract.
“In the efforts to trace the tractors, Isa Hamman Misau, the then-senator under whose auspices the project was included in the budget to be executed by the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) Office, met with officials of ICPC in Bauchi and a written statement claimed that the tractors were kept in Yuli Village.
“However, the CPTG team did not find any of the tractors there, and some of the intended beneficiaries who were interviewed claimed not to have ever seen the tractors in the village as claimed by the senator,” the agency’s spokesperson had disclosed.
The tractors, which are already showing signs of dilapidation as a result of usage, with some leaking oil, were seized by the ICPC and handed over to the Chairman, Ganjuwa Local Council for safe keep pending a full investigation.
An essayist observed that over the years, scenarios akin to the three above have routinely played out in different parts of the country, as far as Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIPs) also known as constituency projects are concerned. These glaring breaches have also succeeded in making the initiative one of the most notorious corrupt schemes since the return of democracy in 1999.
Happily, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu towers above these mundane inclinations to pilfer the resources meant for the constituency projects. Orji Uzor Kalu is only about the very few individuals in politics who deploy their legitimately generated individual resources to serve their constituents and he is somebody who for a long time has consistently piloted the idea of giving back to the society in very many generous ways.
Since he joined the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2019, numerous bills he sponsored, no doubt are clear indications of a man with the firm understanding and capacity to play for the high stakes at the highest level in our body polity, so writes an observer with considerable knowledge of the subject matter.
Bills Sponsored By Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (2019-Present)
A Bill For An Act To Amend The Administration Of Criminal Justice Act 2015 And Other Related Matters Bill 2020; A Bill For An Act To Establish The National Food Bank And To Provide For Matters Connected With Or Incidental To The Foregoing, Bill 2021; A Bill For An Act To Alter The Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) To Provide That The Federal Government And The State Governments Shall Have Concurrent Legislative Powers On Railway, And To Provide For Matters Related Thereto, 2021; Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, 1955 N129 LFN 2004 (Repeal And Re-Enactment) Bill, 2021; A Bill For An Act To Establish The Armed Forces Service Commission To Ensure The Federal Character Of The Armed Forces Pursuant To Constitutional Provision Of Sections 218 (4) And 219 Of The Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria As Amended, Bill 2021; A Bill For An Act To Alter The Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) To Provide That The Federal Government And The State Governments Shall Have Concurrent Legislative Powers On Railway, And To Provide For Matters Related Thereto, 2021; A Bill For An Act To Amend The Federal Colleges Of Education Act, To Provide For The Establishment Of Federal College Of Education (Technical) Arochukwu 2022; Coastal And Inland Shipping Act (Cabotage) Amendment Bill 2022; National Tax Crimes Commission (Establishment, Etc) Bill, 2022; Federal Polytechnic Abiriba, Abia State Establishment Bill 2022; A Bill For An Act To Amend Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004 To Provide For Increased Funding Of Basic Education In Nigeria Bill 2022; A Bill For An Act To Amend The National Environmental Standards And Regulations Enforcement Agency (Establishment) Act, 2007 To Provide For The Prevention And Control Of Atmospheric Air Pollution And Other Related Matters Thereto Bill 2022; Federal University Of Medical Sciences And Biomedical Technology, Umunna, Bende LGA, Abia State Establishment Bill, 2022; A Bill For An Act To Make Provision Of Chartered Institute Of Environment And Safety Management (Establishment) Bill, 2022; A Bill For An Act To Amend Armed Forces Act Chapter A20 Laws Of The Federation Of Nigeria 2004 In Other To Improve Professionalism By Providing For Fixed Tenure Of Service Chiefs And Other Related Matter Thereto, Bill 2022; A Bill For An Act To Amend The Statutory Corporations (Modifications, Etc.) Act, Cap. S12 Laws Of The Federation Of Nigeria 2004, To Update The List Of The Statutory Corporation As Provided In Its Enabling Legal Regime And For Related Matters; Bank Employees Etc.(Declaration Of Assets)Act1986 (Amendment) Bill 2022; Nigeria Film And Video Censors Board Act (Amendment) Bill 2022; Code Of Conduct Bureau Amendment Bill 2022; National Agriculture Improvement Board (Establishment) Bill, 2022; A Bill For An Act To Safe Guard And Protect Journalists And Media Professionals By Providing A Safe Working Environment For Journalists Bill 2022; A Bill For An Act To Achieve Universal Health Coverage And Sustainable Health Development Through Primary Health Care And Providing Suitable Financial Risk Protection Mechanism And Other Related Matters 2022; A Bill For An Act To Provide For The Establishment Of The Nigeria Chinese Language Village, As An Inter-University Centre For Chinese Studies (And Other Related Matters) Bill 2022; A Bill For An Act To Prescribe The Number Of Justices Of The Court Of Appeal By Increasing The Number To Ensure Speedy Administration Of Justice, Pursuant To Constitutional Provision Of Sections 237(2) (B) Of The Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria As Amended Bill 2022; A Bill For An Act To Promote The Green Economy In The Context Of Sustainable Development And Poverty Eradication In Nigeria, 2022; A Bill For An Act To Establish The Nigeria Women Trust Fund And Other Connected Matters 2022; A Bill For An Act Promoting Energy Efficiency In Public Buildings In Nigeria Bill, 2022; A Bill For An Act To Amend The Nigeria Police Act 1967 And Other Related Matters Therein 2022; A Bill For An Act To Provide For Professional Bodies (Special Provisions) Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022; A Bill For An Act To Provide For Compulsory Guidelines For Establishing Public Institution Bill, 2022; A Bill For An Act To Amend The Fire Service Act And Other Related Matters Therein 2022; Citizens Welfare Bill 2022; Nigerian Electricity Health And Safety Bill 2022; National Crisis Prevention, Response And Recovery Agency Establishment Bill 2022; Finance (Control And Management) Act 1958 Amendment Bill 2022; Nigerian Electricity Health And Safety Bill 2022; A Bill For An Act To Provide For The Criminal Legal Aid Act Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria 2022; A Bill To Amend The Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, 2022; A Bill For An Act To Establish The National Marine Development Bank Of Nigeria 2022; A Bill For An Act To Provide For Nigeria Railway System Reform Bill, 2022; National Agriculture Technology Board Establishment Bill, 2022; National Agricultural Technology And Innovation (NATI) Bill, 2022; A Bill For An Act To Establish The Social Welfare Service To Reduce Extreme Poverty Among The Vulnerable Groups And Implement Social Protection Systems And Measures In Nigeria And For Related Matters Bill 2022; Education (National Minimum Standards And Establishment Of Institutions) Act 1985 Amendment Bill 2022; Federal Capital Territory Act Amendment Bill 2022; Federal Character Commission (Establishment, Etc.) Act Amendment Bill 2022; Creation Of States And Boundary Adjustments (Procedure) Act Amendment Bill 2022; Co-Operative Development Act Amendment Bill 2022; A Bill For An Act To Provide For The Establishment Of Federal University Of Technology, Ovim, Isikwuato LGA, Abia State And For Other Matters Connected Therewith Bill 2022; Federal College Of Agriculture, Isiochi, Umunneochi LGA, Abia State Establishment Bill 2022.
Motions sponsored by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (From 2019-Present)
Urgent Need To Investigate The Loss Of $9 Billion Dollars Annually Due To The Illegal Mining And Smuggling Of Gold In Nigeria;Urgent Need To Resuscitate And Re-Activate The Rehabilitation And Concession Of The Eastern Rail Line Project; Need To Ensure Safe Haulage Vehicle Operations In Nigeria; Urgent Need To Revitalize The Maritime Sector And Encourage Indigenous Shipping Companies With A View To Prevent The Loss Of Over $17 Billion Dollars Annually Due To Dearth Of National Shipping Line; Need To Powering Nigeria’s Health Centres With Renewable Energy; Urgent Need To Conduct A Viable And Independent Stress Test On The Generation, Distribution And Transmission Capacities Of The Power Sector; Urgent Need To Promote The Mental Health And Wellbeing Of All Nigerians; Need To Avert Aviation Sector Loss Of $2billion Annually To Capital Flight; Need To Making Water Safety And Swimming A Priority Throughout Nigeria Especially Among Our Youths; Need To Harness Entrepreneurial Creativity And Innovation As A Tool For Post-COVID National Development In Nigeria; Need To Investigate The Non-Payment Of $7 Billion Us Dollars From Nigeria’s Foreign Reserves Disbursed To 14 Global Assets Managers By CBN Since 2006; Exigent Need That The Federal Government Intervenes Through The Rehabilitation And Augmentation Of Rural Water Scheme To Meet The Water Demands And Sanitation Challenges Presently In Abia North Senatorial District; Urgent Need For Banking Infrastructure At Abia North Senatorial District Of Abia State; Urgent Need To Improve Funding Of Research And Innovation In Nigeria In The Post Covid19 Era With A View Of Protecting Nigeria’s Entrepreneurial Future; Urgent Need To Prevent And Discourage Open Burning Of Solid Wastes And Other Environmental Harmful Practices In View Of The Attendant Dangers Posed By Climate Change And COVID-19; Urgent Need For The Federal Government To Revitalize The Abia Water Scheme Through The Rehabilitation And Augmentation Of The Aba Regional Water Scheme; Urgent Need To Address The Dubious Conduct Of Non-Banking Finance Company Businesses Operating Loan Apps In Nigeria; Urgent Need To Ameliorate The Sufferings Of Nigerians Occasioned By Crude Oil Theft And Provide A Sustainable Strategic Action To Address The Nefarious Operations Of Illegal Oil Refineries In Nigeria; Urgent Need To Relist Management Sciences Programmes Of Michael Okpara University Umudike, Abia State In The JAMB Admissions Brochure; Urgent Need To Decentralize The Electricity Grid System In Nigeria With A View For The Power Sector To Achieve Appreciable Progress; The Need To Ensure Local Content Implementation In The One Billion Dollars Loan From Foreign Banks To Purchase Tractors And Other Agricultural Equipment For Farmers In Nigeria; Urgent Need To Halt The Escalating Attacks On Structures Of Government And Institutions Of Democracy In Nigeria; Urgent Need For Compliance With Act 24 Of 2007 Establishing The Printers Institute In View Of Post-COVID Survival Of The Printing And Allied Industry In Nigeria; Urgent Need To Expand The Healthcare Access For The Poor And Vulnerable Children In Nigeria Through Creation Of Enabling Environment For Policy Change And Public Private Integration; The Urgent Need For Reform Of The Nigerian Health Sector In View Of The Post-COVID Era; Urgent Need For The Compulsory Use Of Body-Worn Cameras By Law Enforcement Agencies In Nigeria; Curbing The Rising Menace Of Perennial Fire Outbreaks In Nigeria By Installing Fire Alarm Systems In Public Buildings And Markets; The Urgent Need For Energy Efficient Buildings In Nigeria.
These salient legislative landmarks have clearly shown that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu deserves a resounding victory at next year’s poll because one quality and good term deserves a second term. Orji Uzor Kalu has not really limited his representation to his constituents but has identified himself with progressive national ideals and ideas like promotion of human rights of all, protection of the right to quality education, Women’s abd children’s rights and the right to civil rights of all Nigerians no matter their places of abode both at home and in other jurisdictions.
Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Chief Whip of the Senate says Nigerians in the diaspora will soon be able to vote from their countries of residence.
He spoke on Thursday night in Maryland when he met Nigerians living in the United States of America at the home of Hon . Emeka Eboe
Kalu said the next national assembly will fashion a way to actualise diaspora voting to accommodate millions of Nigerians living outside the country.
He said, “As a Nigerian, irrespective of where you stay or live, you should have a say in deciding who leads who. Therefore, in the nearest future, it should be possible for Nigerians in the diaspora to participate in our national elections. In 1992 as a member of House of Representatives I introduced the dual citizenship bill . By God’s grace in the 10th Senate we will introduce a bill that will allow Nigerians in diaspora to vote their choice candidate.
“We cannot ignore the millions of Nigerians across the globe making significant impact on the country’s economy and our overall development as a nation.
He emphasised the importance of effectively mobilising Nigerians in the diaspora who he described as critical components of the country’s development.
Kalu urged citizens living abroad to remain patriotic and committed to the country’s development irrespective of the current security situation.
“Continue to be patriotic here. Don’t lose hope on Nigeria; keep hope alive. We are going to overcome our challenges as a nation.
“I’m appealing to you all to always promote our country positively. Yes, we have challenges, but Nigeria is our only country. We must therefore unite irrespective of our religion, ethnicity or race,” he said.
Indeed, this Orji Uzor Kalu has paid his dues for Nigerians and deserves a beautiful re-election.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO IS AN ABUJA BASED POLITICAL STRATEGIST AND ERSTWHILE NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.