The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) raises concern on the proposed Constituencies Development Catalyst Fund (CDCF) Bill sponsored by Senator Buhari Abdulfatai. The main purpose of the Bill is to execute projects that would promote government presence in each of the state constituencies.
This objective had been pursued by previous administration in Nigeria and elsewhere without much success. Since the return to democracy in 1999, constituency projects and its implementation have been generating a lot of backlash from the citizenry and stakeholders alike. In fact, part of the criticism has generally been its lack of accountability, the practice of legislatures nominating projects and contractors and failure of these ‘constituency projects’ to yield much dividends for constituents. It is not news that in many states of the Federation, necessary facilities which are taken for granted in some urban centers such as accessible roads, clean water, schools, dignified housing and toilets as well as functional health centers remains a challenge in Nigeria.
CDD is however concerned that the bill if passed into law, will whittle down decentralization and local government administration in Nigeria. This Bill challenges the autonomy of local government, an important tier of government; for instance, by the creation of the Constituencies Development Catalyst Committee, a dependent role is created for the local government executives and opens a risk for patronage and clientele corruption with their legislative counterparts.
CDD further opines that while it is commendable to have NGOs on the proposed committee, the selection criteria itself is faulty. Other opaque provisions in the Bill are an open ended reporting process, gap in audit process and lack of clear processes for dissolution or expulsion of committee members upon confirmation of fraud.
We will like to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that similar bills as the CDCF have failed to make impact in other jurisdictions; Kenya and Tanzania are readily available examples.
In Tanzania, the Constituencies Development Catalyst Fund Act which is very similar to this Bill, failed to achieve much progress for grass root development, or address the realities of direct participation of constituents while the law was also weak on holding corrupt public officials accountable.
In fact, the Kenyan Development Fund 2003 was scrapped and declared ‘unconstitutional’ by the Kenyan High Court in 2015. We call on Nigeria to take a cue from the experiences of these nations.
CDD is concerned that the Bill challenges the autonomy of the local government administration and does not support the approach of this Bill to circumvent the strictly oversight role of the legislature stipulated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.