Constituency projects stink: How politicians overpad budget, amass billions of naira


It has been a year of problems after year for the Executive, 21 years after senators and members of the House of Representatives forced it to include Special Intervention Projects (SIP), also referred to as constituency projects, in the budget.

Constituency projects were created by the Obasanjo administration with the aim of bringing government closer to the people, particularly those living in rural areas. They have an annual budget of N100 billion, and it was not intended for legislators to decide directly which projects should be funded by their constituents or who should provide the contractors.


In light of this, it was decided that the federal government ought to set aside the enormous quantity of funds to support constituent projects and guarantee their execution through the Office of the Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in agreement with lawmakers, reports Sunday Vanguard.

N2 trillion spent

Records have it that at least N2 trillion has been spent on constituency projects from 2003 to date, even as Sunday Vanguard gathered that N95 billion and N100 billion had been allocated to the projects every year and shared among the 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.

In sharing the funds, however, they consider ranking like in the Senate where there are two presiding officers, the President of the Senate and the Deputy Senate President, and eight principal officers: Majority Leader; Deputy Leader; Chief Whip and Deputy Whip.

Others are Minority Leader; Deputy Minority Leader; Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip. All these get higher share than ordinary members. It could be N500 million multiplied by eight while presiding officers get higher than principal officers.

As gathered, while presiding and principal officers could get N500 million and above, no senator gets less than N200 million, especially those who have been around and not principal officers.


Must senators be treated differently against the backdrop that they were all elected each to represent a senatorial district?

First, constituency project is not part of the roles assigned to lawmakers by the nation’s Constitution.

The constitutional mandate of the lawmaker is espoused around lawmaking, representation and oversight functions.

By way of expansion, other ancillary duties may be added but not constitutional.

Consequently, the lawmaker has no business engaging in project award or execution.

It’s the job of the Executive.

National Assembly members are constitutionally empowered to make laws for the country and to act as checks and balances on the Executive and not to execute constituency project.

One can assume that constituency project is a new convention but many have argued in this circumstance that it is organized fraud.

“Otherwise, how do you explain the disparities in the allocation of constituency projects?” a critic said.

Brick wall

Moves by the Senate to legalise constituency projects last year and to increase the vote from N100 billion yearly were jettisoned on the grounds that such venture will interfere with the provisions of Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution as Amended which vest the power of appropriations in the Legislature.

The contentious Bill, sponsored by Senator Babangida Hussaini (APC,Jigawa North-West), was stopped at plenary as it failed to move to second reading.

Hussaini had explained that constituency project is not peculiar to Nigeria as, according to him, it was an effective way of ensuring equitable distribution of development across the country.

He added that it helps to draw governance and dividends of democracy closer to the grassroots.

Bogus salaries, allowances

Recall that Senator Shehu Sani, who represented Kaduna Central in the 8th Senate, had, in March 2018, spoken about alleged bogus salaries and allowances of lawmakers when he revealed that every senator gets N13.5 million monthly as running costs and about N200 million as constituency vote.

According to him, implementation of constituency project is an avenue “for theft and corruption employed by lawmakers”.

Sani had said at that time: “I think what we can say is that the running cost of a senator is N13.5 million every month”.

According to him, while there is no specific instruction on what the fund should be used for, lawmakers must provide receipts to back up their expenses from the running cost.

He added that the running cost is in addition to funds earmarked for each senator for constituency project.

“But what I am saying is that the money (N13.5 million per month) must be receipted for what you do with it. But what you are given to go and spend without accountability is N750, 000”, the senator said.

“The constituency project itself is given on a zonal basis and almost every senator will go with a constituency fund of about N200 million, but it is not the cash that is given to you.

“You will be told that you have N200 million with an agency of government for which you will now submit projects equivalent to that amount. And it is that agency of government that will go and do those projects for you.

“Now, corruption comes when the projects are not done and the money is taken. But right now, it is difficult to do that because NGOs and transparency groups have come into it. They track every allocation made to you and where they are being used.

“So, it’s becoming difficult for what used to happen in the past to happen now. But I can tell you that I would love a situation where we do away with running cost, constituency projects and leave senators and members of House of Reps with salaries”.

Obasanjo, Buhari, Jonathan take positions

Obasanjo himself who started constituency project in 2023 once described it as nothing but corruption, saying, “You and I know what constituency project means, it is simply corruption.”

Former President Muhammadu Buhari echoed similar claim in 2019 when he said the impact of the trillions of Naira voted for constituency projects could hardly be seen in the lives of ordinary Nigerians.

On his part, former President Goodluck Jonathan had said “don’t put the goat where yam is because the goat will eat the yam” in apparent reference to corrupt acts dogging constituency projects.

N500m vs. N75m

On Tuesday on the floor of the Senate, Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe (PDP, Cross River North) alleged that senior senators got N500 million each in the 2024 Budget for constituency projects while other senators got only N75 million.

Jarigbe’s claim was made during a session on the allegation made by another senator, Abubakar Ningi, that the 2024 Budget had been padded to the tune of N3.7 trillion.

Speaking during the rowdy session, Jarigbe said, “I thought that when the Chairman of Appropriations spoke, it was as clear as crystals that there was a misunderstanding of the figures.

“When he came up with the GOEs and all the agencies on first line charge, there is no difference between the figure he reeled out and the figure purported to be padded.

“I thought with that, the allegation would have been rested by Senator Ningi saying that this N3.7 trillion was not part of the budgetary provisions printed out for us. That would have settled this matter.

“We are going forth and back on these issues and coming up with the issues of budget and individual issues concerning what came to our various constituencies.

“If we want to go into those issues, all of us are culpable. Some senators here, so-called senior senators, got N500 million each. I am a ranking senator, I didn’t get. Did I go to the press? Most of you got.”


To buttress the claim that constituency projects for lawmakers were enmeshed in corruption, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, in April 2022, issued a report on how National Assembly members were diverting funds for constituency projects.

The ICPC alleged that senators diverted money meant for their senatorial districts to non-existing projects, thereby denying their constituents from reaping dividends of democracy.

The anti-graft agency said it uncovered how the National Assembly illegally added N20 billion to N100 billion annual constituency projects.

The ICPC, in its ‘interim constituency and executive projects tracking report’, revealed how the National Assembly embedded additional projects into the 2021 mandate budget of MDAs, which, in a long way, affected budget performance, as well as distorted developmental planning and implementation of the 2021 fiscal year.

In the report, the ICPC cited other areas of infractions where lawmakers allegedly awarded contracts to themselves, children or to proxy companies.

The report read: “Budget insertion remains one of the egregious, yet illegally acceptable phenomenon that has distorted the nation’s developmental planning and implementation of developmental programmes.

“In addition to the N100 billion appropriated annually for constituency projects, the National Assembly embedded additional projects into mandate budgets of MDAs. This is done to increase the project portfolios of concerned legislators and their influence on MDAs. The value of the insertion was in billions.


“Analysing the 2021 National Budget alone across key sectors of education, water resources, health, power, science and technology, environment, works and agriculture, we found duplication to the tune of over N20 billion.”

The report pointed out that the “contract for the construction and renovation of blocks of the classroom at a University Staff School in Taraba executed by a company owned and operated directly by a lawmaker”, a project ICPC alleged was “haphazardly nominated, appropriated and executed in locations that have no need for such projects.”

In another development, ICPC alleged another contract infraction in the supplies of water rigs by a particular company to be executed in Taraba.

The commission alleged that “just two days after the award of the contract, ‘the said company’, wrote to the executing agency, Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority, informing it that it was involved in some sort of arrangements with its sister company in respect of the execution and requested that the contract sum should be paid into the bank account of the company owned by the sponsoring legislator.

“Funding was, therefore, made to the said company owned by the sponsoring legislator.”


In the report, the ICPC revealed that it was able to track a contract for the supplies of 686 water pumping machines to Kebbi awarded to a particular company owned by the children of a lawmaker.

The report reads: “Various other projects were awarded and executed in Kebbi by three other companies owned and operated by the biological children of the sponsor.”

Similarly, the ICPC said that it was able to track the project for the supplies of 19 units of 500KVA transformer to Delta State, two of which “were stolen and sold by an aide of the sponsoring lawmaker, while one was found kept in a private house since 2018.

ICPC stated: “While the culprit is on the run, the lawmaker has agreed to an undertaking to purchase and deliver to the commission the two transformers”.

The commission also cited the project valued at N149m for the training and empowerment of women and youths in Abaji allegedly awarded to a relative of the sponsoring legislator.

It was also replicated in Katsina where the sponsor single-handedly executed the contract after which the project said to have been valued at N49m was changed from its form and devalued by the lawmaker.

In another case, the supply of tricycles to Rivers State was an empowerment project where the sponsor allegedly used one of her cronies as the contractor.

ICPC alleged that “while the contract was never performed, the sum (N30m) was fully paid and shared”.

Projects cited on personal properties

The agency also revealed that some sponsoring legislators sometimes site projects on personal properties, which technically vests legal possession and ownership to them.

An example was cited of the diversion of funds for an agricultural empowerment project in Osun State to a training programme on cattle rearing and the actual supply of cattle.

The Bill of Quantities, BOQ, according to the ICPC report, indicated procurement and distribution of 250 cattle to beneficiaries.

The report said: “While the intended beneficiaries were trained, no cattle were given to them; instead the lawmaker established a private ranch using the cattle procured with government’s fund.”

In Bayelsa, the commission alleged that the investigation led it to another youth empowerment scam carried out by the sponsoring lawmaker.

It alleged that some of the beneficiaries found in the list were randomly contacted, even as none of them acknowledged ever receiving any grant.

Rumble in the Senate over ‘N3. 7 trillion budget padding’

John Alechenu takes a look at what transpired during Tuesday’s plenary following the allegation that N3 trillion was inserted into the 2024 Appropriation Act.

“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” – George Santayana.

In the eye of the storm

The 10th Senate under the leadership of Senator Godswill Akpabio was in the eye of the storm last week following allegation of impropriety surrounding the passage of the 2024 Appropriation Act.

The allegation was made by the erstwhile Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum (NSF), Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi South).

In an interview with the Hausa Service of the BBC, Ningi, among other things, alleged that two versions of the 2024 Budget were in operation and that a whopping N3.7 trillion could not be traced to any line item.

As is to be expected, the media and the general public feasted on the interview and fingers pointed in the direction of Senate President Godswill Akpabio.

Senators who felt the integrity of the Senate in particular and the National Assembly in general had been called to question plotted their revenge and prepared for a collective response.

Many Nigerians were expecting Ningi to produce evidence to pull the plug on Akpabio and his fellow principal officers when plenary resumed on Tuesday.

The Senate President and his backers equally waited for the opportunity to put Ningi in his place after establishing the previous night that he acted alone.

This is not the first time allegations of budget padding were leveled against the leadership of the National Assembly.

Recall, in 2006, during the 8thNational Assembly, then-Chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, Abdulmumuni Jibrin, after falling out with then-Speaker Yakubu Dogara, accused the House leadership of padding then-budget to the tune of N40billion.

Jibrin was referred to the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges; he refused to make an appearance. He was tried and convicted in absentia.

He was subsequently suspended from legislative duties for 180 days but was later pardoned and recalled before the expiration of 180 days.


Ningi’s allegation is the first of its kind in the Senate.

This, perhaps, partly explains the interest it generated.

The lawmaker, who is a ranking member as well as a leading member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), spiced his allegation with regional flavour when he also alleged that the 2024 Budget was skewed against the North.

Undeterred by a rebuttal issued by a presidential spokesperson, Bayo Onanuga, Ningi addressed the Senate Press Corps and insisted he had facts and figures to back his claim, adding for effect that threats of suspension do not scare him.

The stage was thus set for what many considered a testy moment for the Akpabio Senate presidency.


Despite pressures from some of his colleagues for an executive session, convinced that he had nothing to hide, the Senate President opted for an open session which was beamed live on television.

One thing was missing, Akpabio’s trademark banter with colleagues. It was no time for jibes, a lot was at stake. Tuesday’s proceedings were watched across the globe.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Solomon Olamilekan, was recognised to present his motion under matters of privilege, and the motion was duly seconded, several senators were given room to speak for and against.

The provocateur, Ningi, was given ample opportunity to defend himself, substantiate his claims, and even level more if he had.

It was an anti-climax when he stood and recanted some of the things he was quoted to have said in the contentious interview.

He went on to say only he had details of the findings of the consultants hired by the Northern Senators Forum to review the budget.

After dramatizing and displaying a horde of files and documents, Ningi could not substantiate his allegation of padding or infraction in the budget; instead, he digressed and started talking about the number of aides appointed by the Senate President and his take-home pay. However, another matter stirred public debate.

Senator Agom Jaribe (PDP, Cross River), while contributing during the debate, alleged that some ranking senators received N500 million each for constituency projects while others were discriminated against.

The Senate descended into near chaos for almost 30 minutes before calm was restored.


One thing was however clear: Different sentiments were whipped into the debate on the allegations but the Senate was united in doing what it felt was the right thing in accordance with its Standing Order.

Hence, the prayers of Olamilekan’s motion were amended and subsequently passed.

Ningi was suspended for three months.

The emptiness of Ningi’s allegations and the prompt response of the Senate to tame the misinformation have spared Akpabio from public ridicule because, since the National Assembly is becoming synonymous with budget padding, many people were expecting the Senate President’s political career to be nailed based on his colleague’s allegations.

But Akpabio scaled the hurdle and this has once more amplified the confidence of his colleagues in his ability to paddle the canoe of leadership in the Red Chamber.The submission by the Senate that Ningi had no case and was clearly on another mission was enunciated by the Senate Leader, Senator Michael Bamidele, who was blunt in his presentation.


Bamidele likened Ningi’s allegations to a failed civilian equivalent of a military coup.

He expressed the view that some senators were yet to put behind their electoral defeat in the race for top leadership positions hence the scheming to truncate Akpabio’s tenure.

To his credit, the Senate President didn’t betray emotions as he allowed his colleagues express themselves during the session. Even when the session temporarily became rowdy, a practice which is common with democracies across the globe especially in the developing world, Akpabio stood up, cited Order 6. 3 of ‘The Senate Standing Orders 2015 (As Amended)’, which reads: “Whenever the President of the Senate or the Chairman rises during a debate, any Senator then speaking or offering to speak shall sit down, and the Senate or the Committee shall be silent so that the President of the Senate or the Chairman may be heard without interruption.”

The rule also empowers the Senate President to order the Sergeant-at-Arms to escort a senator out of the chamber if he/she chooses to be disruptive after this intervention.

It is worthy of note that Senator David Mark, as Senate President, invoked this rule only once in his eight years on the exalted chair.

Akpabio’s handling of the allegations of budget padding sent a message to watchers of the Senate that the era of using trumped-up charges to commence impeachment proceedings against presiding officers better known as the era of the infamous “banana peels” has been confined to the dustbin of history.

As a trained lawyer and firm believer in the rule of law, Akpabio allowed the Senate Rules to take their course in attending to Ningi’s allegations, which were ab initio dead on arrival.

A former senator who represented Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, recalled how he was almost suspended during the 8th Senate for revealing his earnings and that of his fellow senators.

While reacting to Ningi’s suspension, he said all senators are equal in the eyes of the law but that this was not the case in reality. He told Sunday Vanguard there are written and unwritten laws and conventions senators are expected to abide by. He described suspension as a not too pleasant experience because it literally means “being shut out of the National Assembly and your legislative functions and denied your emoluments, rights and privileges for the period of the suspension”. He noted that, as a nation, we need to set out priorities right in order to move forward.

Akpabio as presiding officer of the 10th Senate didn’t mince words when he described the incalculable damage being done to the National Assembly as an institution each time allegations, which lack basis in fact, are made especially by fellow lawmakers whom he believes ought to know better. Nigerians are hoping that the 10thNational Assembly will grow beyond petty politics and settle down to making laws that will improve the security and welfare of citizens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *