The House of Representatives has accused the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) of providing misleading statistics, upon which President Muhammadu Buhari relied on to say about one trillion naira was expended on National Assembly members’ constituency projects in 10 years.
President Buhari was reported to have made the statement on Tuesday, at an event organised by office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in conjunction with the ICPC, from where he was quoted to have said that data collected from Nigerians in rural communities pointed to the fact that they had not felt the impact of the said projects, as there was no commensurate result with the funds spent.
But Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, rising through a point of order on Wednesday, said the statistics were incorrect, and breached his privileges as a member of the National Assembly, as according to him, budgeted figures in annual budgets do not equate to actual release of funds. “Last year, there was release about only 40 percent, and we are not sure if releases will be up to 50 percent this year”, he noted.
Also, lending support to Elumelu’s assertion, deputy minority leader, Toby Okechukwu, argued that the biggest problem with such projects was poor release of funds for their execution, adding that those who informed the president failed to take such into consideration.
“In policy analysis, you initiate a project, you do monitoring and evaluation to ascertain the level of implementation, but the information now in the public domain shows that they didn’t tell the president the truth in terms of releases.
“Going forward, budgeted funds should be released because that is the only way we can ascertain whether there is performance or not”, he said, adding that the zonal intervention projects “are very important to the people”.
Responding, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, said the matter affected the collective privileges of members of the whole House, and may yield a bad consequence. “I am concerned over the unintended consequences out of this, which is to put people’s well-being at risk.
“It is okay to use the National Assembly as the weeping boy, but let that be based on facts. The FOI Act is there for them to explore and ascertain the releases”, he said, noting that if the House embarked on an overnight and report non-factual figures, “I don’t think even the ICPC will appreciate that. So I am sending this message to ICPC and other agencies to differentiate between monies budgeted and monies released.”