The Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP) popularly known as constituency projects can be described as a gully with a seemingly endless appetite for money.
Annually, the sum of N100billion is budgeted for this endeavour.
The project ordinarily gives members of the National Assembly the opportunity to nominate projects in their constituencies in the annual budget.
And why not?
Since they are closer to the people, the lawmakers can nominate projects based on need assessment, following consultation with the members of their constituencies. Theoretically, the lawmakers are supposed to nominate the projects. Thereafter, Ministries, Departments and Agencies concerned will execute the project.
However, what obtains in practice is different. Some lawmakers are involved in the execution; some even involve themselves in the contract.
Breakdown of the Sharing of the N100billion
The N100billion is shared between the Senate and the House of Representatives on the ratio of 40%-60%. The Senate which has 109 members takes 40%. This comes up to N40billion. The House with more population takes 60% which represents N60billion.
But here is the interesting part.
The Presiding officers of each chamber all take 10% from the remaining fund in addition to theirs. It is one of the perks of the office. These beneficiaries include Senate President/Speaker, Deputy Senate President/ Deputy Speaker, Leader, Minority Leader, Whip and Minority Whip.
For instance, the-then Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara had constituency projects allocation of over N2billion in 2016. Also, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was the House leader at the time, was allocated N1.7billion.
Hustle for Principal offices justified by gargantuan sleaze in name of constituency projects
The sharing partly explains the hustle for Principal offices. Indeed, pulling data from the same budget, most other members of the Lagos caucus got N43million each for constituency project.
As a matter of fact, the members of the caucus under the late Abayomi Ayeola, Chairman of the caucus had to pool their funds together to build the Epe recreational centre.
The laughable projects and grand corruption
In 2018, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa donated frying pans and oil for women in his constituency as empowerment programme. Ohuabunwa was the lawmaker representing Abia North district in the 8th Assembly.
The ZIP budget is mostly filled with projects that are questionable or bear vague description. Some of these include “youth empowerment, women empowerment, sensitization.”
In June, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) commenced the tracking of constituency projects in 12 states. Indeed, the revelation has been worrisome. The Commission recently seized some constituency projects items in Obot, Akwa Ibom state, allegedly belonging to Sen Godswill Akpabio.
Among the recoveries so far made by the team are dialysis machine, ECG monitor, oxygen regulator, Anaesthetic machines and generators. Also recovered were other “hospital equipment” meant for a cottage hospital in Ukana, Essien Udim LGA of Akwa Ibom State.
The items were recovered from the premises of Mma Obot Foundation. The foregoing was disclosed in a statement by the spokesperson of the ICPC, Rasheedat Okoduwa.
In addition, the agency recovered items worth N117,123,375.44 million from Senator, Chukwuka Utazi. Utazi represents Enugu North Senatorial District of Enugu State. According to a statement by the ICPC, the items were stashed away in the premises located at Mkpologu town of the Uzo-Nwani Local Government Area, suspected to be the senator’s property.
Of what use are the interventionist projects?
The items comprised 168 motorcycles and 51 tricycles. The ICPC said the contract for the project was awarded on January 23, 2018 under the Sustainable Development Goals. The contract was awarded as part of the senator’s constituency projects.
In addition, the Commission disclosed that it recovered 203 grinding machines, 60 motorcycles and five transformers in the compound. Equally important, the items had been procured under another constituency project.
In other words, our lawmakers in some instances have reduced the interventionist projects to a reward system for loyalists.
Nigeria remains the capital of extreme poverty despite the huge money already spent on direct intervention. The worrisome situation begs the question, of what use are the constituency projects?