The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has attributed failure of some constituency projects to interference and interest on the part of lawmakers.
For a long time in Nigeria, constituency projects have been a subject of controversy as some lawmakers interfere with the process of execution. In some cases, some lawmakers have been found guilty of facilitating award of contract to their companies.
In an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Ekweremadu said the impression that lawmakers collect money to execute constituency projects is wrong as the right practice is for them (lawmakers) to nominate while an agency executes.
He said the level of interference and interest on the part of some lawmakers sometimes constitute setbacks for projects.
“Now some people may be, and I believe go behind to either bring these contractors or influence certain contractors. So when you do that the implication is that if the contractors fail to do that job, you can’t have the moral ground to pursue it.
“In my own case, I am not in between the two categories so if you don’t do the job, you are going to have a problem with me. So at one point when I was having issues with my governor in Enugu years back, the former governor. So he thought we are one of those who go and bring contractors and there is a small screw and we’ll collect the money. So he went to a river basin authority where most of our constituency project was situated and collected the names of the contractors, maybe thinking they were related to me in any way. So he thought he has finally nailed Ekweremadu. He went to the Corporate Affairs Commission and discovered those people had nothing to do with me.”
To ensure completion of some of his nominated projects, the deputy Senate president said he had in times past had the cause to arrest erring contractors.
“So because they know I don’t have any interest except in the completion of the project, so they take it seriously and they know what will happen if they don’t take it seriously. So I had cause sometimes to report to the police to arrest the contractors and stuff like that and get them back to come and complete the work.
“The contractors have already known that I am not going to ask for any money, I am not going to ask for any cut, I am not going to demand anything less than the completion of the project. Because sometimes when you get the so-called cut, you reduce the amount of money available for the project. So most times, the project will not be completed. So if you want to help your people, you’ll have to go all the way and make all the sacrifice to help.”
Mr Ekweremadu enjoined his colleagues to always make informed assessment before designating a project to a community.
He gave an account of how he does this in his constituency.
“I grew up in this area so I understand that there are challenges. If you are conversant with my senatorial district, we have five local governments. We have Aniri, we have Owu, we have Oji-River, Udi and Ezegu. Now if you look at the topography and the geological formation of the place you’ll find out that place like Aniri don’t have underground water because of the coal deposit in the area, so if you try to do borehole it’s not going to work, we’ll just simply waste our time and waste government money and so we don’t bother ourselves there.
“Now places like Udi and Ezegu and some part of Oji River we’ve discovered they have underground water, so if I am going to site water project, I’m going to focus on those areas because I know we are going to find water that will be useful to the people.
“I will weigh all those options and look at the best place which is most appreciated where it will add more value and then you place such constituency project in those areas. We have to look at where it’s most needed and location of each area in deciding where we’ll site the project.”
Mr Ekweremadu said lawmakers need to do some extra assignments to get projects executed in their constituencies.
In this regard, he said, the lawmakers should humble themselves before ministers, who are heads of implementing agencies
“Another thing, you should not be proud and wait for them to come and see you, you have to go out. For instance, if i want a water project, i do not need to wait for minister of water to come to my office, I go to his office and i follow up with him. When you take that time to go see a minister, they would feel humbled and feel respected.
“Some people now think I am a senator and a House member just bring the minister to come and see me. The minister would come and when he leaves he would say this man just wasted my time the whole day, what does he want me to do, so that is how it works.”