By Usman Gwadabe
Citizens have advocated for national and state Assemblies to adopt Lagos State Law on constituency project in order to ensure accountability and transparency in the programme.
They made the advocacy during a one-day training workshop on Fostering Transparency and Accountability in Constituency Project Service Delivery in Kano State for media and Civil Society Organisations organized by the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) held at Mambayya House in the state, recently.
The participants acknowledged that sections of the Lagos State (Constituency) Project Development Law 1999 provided all what are needed for making the programme to succeed.
They added that it also specified expenditure, allocations and types of project to be conducted. The call followed a paper presented on ‘Leveraging Convergence of Media in Ecosystem for Constituency Project,’ by one of the resource persons, Dr. Nuhu Musa Idris from Faculty of Law, Bayero University, Kano who revealed that despite the adoption of constituency projects by lawmakers across the nation, only Lagos State institutionalized the system to transparency and accountability purposes.
The lecturer said the law reads as: “Section II set aside 15 per cent of the annual capital expenditure and distributed it equally to all the 40 constituencies; Section II specifies the types of projects to be carried out; Section III establishes the project monitoring committee, with members representing the constituency as chairman and four community leaders as members.” He said the last Section IV spelt out the functions of the committee, which include; determination of the type of project required; present the decision of the committee to the appropriate body for necessary action; and monitor the development of the project and submit a quarterly report to the state House of Assembly.
Dr. Idris stated that constituency projects are those recommended by legislators at federal and state Assemblies, or those identified by government agencies and recognised as beneficial to the people for the government to carry out in their various constituencies for the benefit of the people they represent.
“The concept of constituency projects has been controversial,” he said, adding that the project was an opportunity for elected representatives to directly participate in the alleviation of the challenges or problems faced by their constituents.
He made reference to the role of media in ensuring transparency and accountability, where said that in the constitution, its Section 22 said the constitution imposes obligation on the media thus: “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.”
In a paper presentation on ‘Overview of the CHRICED’s Project of Community-Driven Anti-Corruption Initiatives in Kano State,’ Mr. Adewoye Omoniyi Adeyemi, Senior Programme Officer of CHRICED, revealed that the centre, through the support of MacArthur Foundation, hoped to achieve a greater transparency, accountability, and openness in the administration and operations of constituency projects in state as well as to improve service delivery and quality of service in the implementation of government projects.
“Others,” he said “are to improve dialogue and feedback between elected political office holders and their constituents in the three Senatorial Districts of the state; increase awareness and participation of local communities in the anti-corruption project; ownership and sustenance of public exchanges between constituents and their representatives and to increase reflection of the outcomes of the concerns and priorities of communities in planning and implementation of constituency projects.”
Dr. Hadiza Jummai Ibrahim from Mass Communication Department, Bayero University, Kano who spoke on ‘Fact Checking in an Age of Fake News, Misinformation and Disinformation,’ advised media practitioners while reporting constituency project implementations to find facts by looking for the best available evidence regarding the claim at hand as well as to correct any record by evaluating the claim in the light of the evidence available.
She said the 5Ws and H have to be applied to ensure transparency and accountability in reporting the projects. She added that a journalist should ask himself the following questions, has the story been already fact-checked? If yes, by whom? Just to ensure honesty in the reportage.
On Citizens-Led Accountability Strategies and Best Practices For Amplifying Community Voices in Constituency Projects Delivery Process, Mr. Adewoye Omoniyi Adeyemi, said include information-sharing, political will, meaningful sanctions and social inclusion.
Mr. Adeyemi added that community surveillance and intelligence gathering, monitoring and evaluation of the quality of government projects and policy implementation in local communities as well as mobilizing citizens into organized pressure groups for the purpose of making transparency and accountability demands from elected public officials are very important.
In his remarks, the Executive Director of CHRICED, Dr. Zikrullah Ibrahim, said the aim of the exercise was to equip stakeholders with relevant knowledge to promote accountability. He added that the training was vital for effective delivery of critical social services, especially constituency projects.
“To achieve this goal, journalists must assist the public to hold legislators accountable in terms of constituency projects,” he stressed.