Senators have for long been criticized and accused of embezzling funds meant for their constituencies. However, Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa(PDP-Abia North) says the criticisms have been unfair and the accusations unjust, because money appropriated for constituency projects does not go to parliamentarians.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja, the senators said that lawmakers only choose the site of the projects, while the relevant ministries handle the contracts and execution.
However, he explained that lawmakers in the 4th and 5th assembly demanded for constituency projects in order to address the infrastructural deficits they identified in their constituencies.
Ohuabunwa said constituency projects came about because there was serious decay in infrastructure in the constituencies; hence the constituents were not interested in how many bills and motions the lawmakers sponsored.
“What have you done to positively impact their lives in terms of infrastructure; alleviation of poverty, skill acquisition among others; so we came up with the idea of constituency project?
“That was what led to the agitation for constituency projects; it was not easy; but eventually the president saw the need and we started it on three sectors then-power, health and water—rural electrification, primary healthcare and provision of boreholes.
“When appropriations for constituency projects are made, lawmakers will be given options among the three sectors; you choose and allocate-that is the community or local government where you want the project sited; after that, your job ends.
“As regards the award, payment and the execution, it goes to the relevant ministry, if it is power; it goes to the ministry of power; if it is water, ministry of water, health, ministry of health.
“There is a misrepresentation that parliamentarians receive money for constituency projects; no, government does not operate that way and it is not possible.
“What you can do is to determine the budget and the location,” he explained.
Ohuabunwa’s constituency will not be able to fully benefit in constituency projects this year as he was not present at the National Assembly during the consideration of the 2016 budget. His election had been nullified by the Appeal Court sitting in Owerri, the Imo State capital, which ordered a re-run which he won.
The lawmaker said that his absence affected projects he would have attracted to his constituency.