Opinion

‘Constituency projects’ as a national scam

The bids for “2021 Capital and Constituency Projects” as advertised (Vanguard, Friday, April 26, 2021, pages 27 – 33) by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Emolument points to Nigeria’s troubles which to some appear well beyond comprehension but Chinua Achebe diagnosed as leadership failure.

But leadership is just but an insignificant part of the elephantine problem. Some other concerned Nigerians have simply concluded that Nigeria is a ‘vast criminal enterprise’ and the political system as an ‘organised banditry’. The system of ‘constituency projects’ lends credence to this assertion.

‘Criminal enterprise’ or ‘organised banditry’ used by these Nigerians may appear baseless but if you take each on its merit by juxtaposing it to the historical background of Nigeria and the present political culture epitomized by constituency projects, running as they are on the same thread of criminal conquest and exploitation leads to same conclusion.

The foundation of Nigeria was laid in criminality. Recall that Britain, having overcome its troubles of late 16th and 17th centuries arising from its feudal and autocratic constitutional framework when its present constitutional framework of democracy and rule of law was entrenched, the revolution released the creative forces of the society leading to scientific, intellectual and industrial revolution between 1700 and 1800.

Chartered companies were formed to fructify the beautiful works of 15th century explorers who discovered ‘new worlds leading to the founding and settling of new British colonies in America, Asia and Africa. But it is pertinent to note that the new worlds and ideas anchored on new ideology of capitalism was driven by state-crime democratized by licensing corporate charters and individual gold-diggers, soldiers-of-fortune and sundry criminals to roam the new worlds and find their bearings outside sponsoring states such as Britain, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and France. Most of these states had overcome their constitutional troubles and embraced the industrial revolution and scramble for the discovered worlds.

It was during that period that Britain founded Nigeria, first by appointing trade consuls after its explorers had established some kind of footholds in Nigerian coastal states and hinterland. Having appointed a Consul at Bight of Benin in 1849, Britain stirred crises in Lagos, seized it as a colony from where, it set its eyes on Yoruba country and Benin Empire, and in due course found a pretext to invade, conquer and loot their royal treasures.

At the Bight of Biafra, Britain appointed consuls/ merchants who dealt with Niger Delta states by deceits and frauds and extracted fraudulent agreements and treaties which ceded vast tracts of the territories to British commercial concerns especially when the famous buccaneer, Sir George Taubman Goldie, one of such merchants, combined British firms to form the Royal Niger Company.

Sir Goldie used this company’s expeditionary force commanded by Captain Frederick Lugard to conquer many communities in Niger Delta, Igbo-land and Middle-Belt and established trade monopoly which used unfair trade practices against the people and exploited the people to the extent that British official Sir Macdonald condemned the oppression and injustice visited on Nigerians.

The activities of Britain, its citizens including corporate organisations, cannot be anything else than ‘organised criminal enterprise’ and the political system as ‘organised banditry’. This criminal network has not been broken since 1830 to date as ably researched and documented by Onwuka Dike, the foremost Nigerian historian in his book, ‘Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta (1830-1885)’.

This book documented the criminal activities of Britain in the guise of establishing Nigeria as an economic and political entity and that thread of criminal foundation and exploitation by special interests has not been broken as observed by Tekena Tamuno in his book ‘Oil Wars in the Niger Delta (1849-2009) who declared that the criminal enterprise started by Britain (1830 -1885) leading to the creation of Nigeria in 1914 was continued by the new indigenous agents who continued the tradition and maintained the criminal thread that holds the entity together in one piece hence they boast that the ‘unity’ of Nigeria is “unquestionable”, non-negotiable” and “indissoluble”, no matter their oppression and crimes against the people.

The facts and circumstances explain Nigeria as a criminal enterprise and the economic and political system as an organised banditry, but the extant legal order legitimizes the system as perfectly legal and constitutional. By our foregoing analysis about the establishment of Nigeria, the criminal elements of conspiracy, fraudulent deception, theft and cheating were present in founding Nigeria by Britain.

The various treaties and agreements used by Britain to establish ownership of the various territories and communities were forged, or secured by violent intimidation, coercion and duress by British officials and particularly by Sir Goldie’s Royal Niger Company. The Hausa Constabulary established by British officials in 1830 and used by British Naval Squadron to defeat Lagos in 1851 was a state-sponsored terror organisation so also the Royal Niger Company Expeditionary Force.

It was these unlawful criminal organisations that have been formed as Nigeria’s armed forces and police in 1914. Since 1914, Britain has ruled Nigeria as an autocracy of the worst kind throughout the world hence the socio-economic and political system breeds crimes and corruption and corruption acts as lubricant that oils the ligament of the state machinery and without it Nigeria would not have collapsed and it is still this corrupt and criminal tendencies that are sustaining the country as represented by the ‘constituency project’ scam.

The impetus for the essay was the National Productivity Centre, of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment’s advertisement calling for bids by contractors/ consultants for the execution of “its capital projects under the 2021 Capital Budget and Constituency Projects.”

The constituency projects seek to accommodate the interests of members of the National Assembly in Federal Government public works. Similar projects are replicated at the state and local council levels. Those projects and the businesses they spawn are in substance no more than lubricant for oiling the so called ‘oversight function’ for necessary cooperation between the executive and legislative branches relations and thus a form of bribery but by Nigeria’s legal order it is perfectly legal and constitutional. Many Nigerians would not immediately see the danger this measure has posed to governance integrity in Nigeria since 1999 to date.

The danger lies in the fact that government is commoditized and distributed from the various points (central, state and local centres) and supposedly meant to benefit the people but in actual fact these measures are no more than political artifices to service clientelism and accommodation of the elites in the feudal distribution of national patrimony. In most cases, these projects were hardly executed and where executed were poorly done due to lack of supervision, contractor’s abandonment and the communities’ ignorance.

In any case, the items set out as projects for the benefit of the communities are mostly irrelevant to the actual needs of the targeted communities. For instance, for my Ohaozara/Onicha/Ivo Federal Constituency, Ebonyi State (page 27 of the advertisement), tagged Lot G06: “Provision of Empowerment Materials/ Equipment for Youths” the details were not provided for the concerned community to know and monitor the execution of the contract. Since 1999, this tradition of “Constituency Projects” persists. When you visit the concerned communities you will be confronted with the supposed projects, either nonfunctional or badly done or abandoned and in most cases the so called empowerment were consumables such as motorcycles, electric generators, wheel barrows, shovels, etc, most of which do advance the real welfare of the people but rather deepen their poverty.

The amount budgeted for these projects if disclosed will shock the people. But such humongous amount of money is frittered away yearly on the pretext of benefitting the people whereas it was for the selfish aggrandizement of the concerned public officials and their collaborating businessmen/ fronts masquerading as “contractors/consultants.”
At the end, the beat goes on as Nigeria remains in its bad state of dysfunctionality and turbulent society wracked by insurgency and crimes. This tradition can change in favour of deconstructing this feudal edifice by devolving power to the states and local governments and autonomous communities where the money will be domiciled and better managed/utilized by the people on projects best suited to their needs.

 

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