Poverty, Empowerment and Constituency Projects

OrderPaperToday – Empowerment schemes in the form of skill acquisition, trainings, and grants are a dominant feature of the zonal intervention funds for constituency projects by members of the National Assembly.

Unarguably, these projects have the potential to create wealth and economic development across the country. Whether or not these projects are actually creating the required impact is a different ball game.

The situation in North-east…

Nigeria’s North-Eastern region is definitely a region in need of “empowerment” after a decade long of consistent violence and terrorism that has taken the zone decades backwards in terms of development.

However, a drive through the region from Bauchi to Gombe, from Yobe to Borno, and from Adamawa to Taraba shows a need for serious intervention and perhaps the imminent take off of the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) will do a lot to alleviate the sufferings of citizens of the region.

What has been the impact of empowerment projects by lawmakers in the region using the 2016 budget for empowerment projects as a baseline? A case study of Gombe state is quite revealing.

The state is ranked as the 2nd poorest state in Nigeria with a Gross Domestic Product of US$2,501. In Gombe Central, Senator Danjuma Goje has an allocation of N300 million for the supply of motorcycles and Keke Napep plus another N100 million for the supply of grinding machines and sewing machines.

However, the reaction from citizens has been mixed and more often discouraging. A social commentator in Gombe, Mallam Anas who spoke on OrderPaper’s ConsTrack programme on Progress FM Gombe last month gave a scathing assessment of Goje’s empowerment programmes. He said: “we cannot say they (Senators) have not worked at all but to be honest we are in the nook and crannies and the level of work is not proportional to the funds released.

“For instance, in Gombe Central, Senator Goje has done some work but the problem is when you look at the huge amount it is not equal to the impact, especially in the rural areas. These Senators don’t even come back home often and they talk about empowerment, they don’t come for that.”

He specifically gave his take on Goje’s allocation of N300 million for Motorcycles and Keke Napep: “If there was any supply of motorcycle or keke napep, the constituents would have come to progress FM to say thank you to the Senator. Where did they share it? There are only two Local Government Areas in the Zone; Akko and Yemaltu Deba and there is nothing like that in those places. The truth is the monies have not been spent for the purpose they were meant for.”

For Senator Bayero Nafada, there was huge backlash from his constituents after they discovered that N86.66 million was budgeted for youth and women empowerment, and also for the empowerment of people with disability. Danjuma Adamu Isiyaku in a text message to OrderPaperNG said: “Since Usman Bayero Nafada became a Senator, he has not visited or sent us anything. Nothing has been done for us, please help us talk to him,” while Muhammad Suleiman Bolari wrote: “To be honest Senator Bayero Nafada has done nothing for us in Gome North.”

The anger among Gombe citizens over an apparent lack of impact and empowerment to bring them out of squalor spreads to Gombe South, as the Senator representing the zone, Joshua Lidani narrowly escaped lynching by his constituents last month. An activist, Ibrahim Wala, revealed through a Facebook Live video that the Senator paid a visit to the Headquarters of Balanga Local Government Area and was subsequently barred from leaving building. Wala said: “I think it is important for people to understand that our politicians are becoming some form of threat to us. I’m getting a situation report from Gombe State, Balanga Local Government, there is a situation going on. There is a kind of standoff between some of the youth of Balanga Local Government. They are calling on the Senator representing Gombe South, Joshua Lidani, who is on a visit to the Local Government Headquarters. He is having difficulty getting out of the Local Government. It appears all the youth in the area are saying ‘no,’ they don’t want to see him; they want him to account for his stewardship. Ever since he was appointed, he abandoned them; he has never gone to see them for a day. Today he paid a visit there.” Ultimately, a group of soldiers were called to free the lawmaker who subsequently took cover at the House of the traditional ruler of Talasse.

The unfortunate Lidani episode will raise a few eye brows considering that for 2016 alone, Gombe South had a budgetary provision of Keke Napep for youth empowerment in Kaltungo Local Government Area totalling N65 million while a separate N36.66 million was set aside for entrepreneurship development and training in Shongom Local Government Area of the senatorial district. What happened to these projects is anyone’s guess. Again, one would have expected the House of Representative contingents from Gombe to come to the rescue of their counterparts in the Senate with a sizeable 2016 budget for empowerment schemes of various kinds hitting over N250 million for the 6 members. Nevertheless, the state persists among the poorest in the country and frustrations of citizens are becoming more apparent.

Bauchi state is privileged to produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. He catches the eye with a single empowerment provision for a sensational N500 million. While there are wide reports of various empowerment moves by Dogara, questions persists if they represent value for the whooping allocation considering the fact that finer details of the N500 million empowerment schemes were not defined in the budget. Similarly, in Adamawa Senator Murtala Nyako with various empowerment provisions to the tune of N236 million leads the light. Senator Emmnual Bwacha (Taraba South) N90 million empowerment outlay is quite detailed showing that N45 million will be used for 300 motorcycles while another N45 million is for 80 keke-napep. It is up to his constituents to tell us how empowering these vehicles have been, if they were fully delivered or delivered at all.

According to reports, the North East region has the second highest poverty rate of all six geo-political zones in Nigeria and citizens will be yearning for better impact from the multi-billion empowerment schemes of their lawmakers.

Huge sums for poverty alleviation in Niger delta…

In the Niger delta, the story is not any much different. A sample examination of some federal lawmakers from the area did not post an encouraging impression. In this sample cluster are Sen. Godwill Akpabio representing Akwa-Ibom NorthWest senatorial district, Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce representing Bayelsa East and Sen. Rose Oko representing Cross-River North. In the green chamber, the list includes Essien Ayi (Calabar South/ Akpabuyo/Bakassi), Ochieglor Idagbo (Cross-River-Bekwarra/Obudu/Obanliku), and Leo Ogor (Delta-Isoko North/South). Others are, Nicholas Mutu (Delta-Bomadi/Patani), Omosede Igbinedion (Edo-Ovia NorthEast/ SouthWest), Betty Apiafi (Rivers-Abua/Odual/Ahoada-East), Owoidighe Ekpoatai (Akwa-Ibom,Eket/Onna/Esit/Eket/Ibeno). For this cluster, a total amount of N777 million was allocated for various empowerment schemes in the list of 2016 constituency projects. The breakdown is as follows: Senator Akpabio earmarked N372 million; N130 million for Leo Ogor; N100 million for Omosede; N125 million for Ekpeyong; and N50 million for Idagbo. Further breakdown reveals the projects in specifics for Akapbio are: Training and empowerment of Women in Trade peculiar to Akwa-Ibom North-West senatorial district in various locations in LGAs, Akwa-Ibom at N45 million; Training and empowerment of youth skills peculiar to Akwa-Ibom North-West senatorial district in various locations in LGAs, Akwa-Ibom at N45 million; Provision of Tricycles for the empowerment of rural people of Akwa-Ibom North-West at N50 million; Strategic empowerment program, provision of equipment and machinery for Special Enterprises at N40 million; and Construction of skill acquisition/ sports recreational facilities in Essien Udim LGA, Akwa-Ibom North-West senatorial district at N150 million. Others are Vocational training; training in trade skills in businesses that are peculiar to the community, business planning to quickly aid in starting the business in OBOT Akara, Etim Ekpo, NSIT Ibom and ABAK LGAs at N22 million; and Training and capacity building for enterprises in Ikene Oruk anam and Ukanafun LGAs- N20 million.

For Mr. Ogor, the list of projects include “Training/ Empowerment of Graduates from Isoko federal constituency in Delta state at N100 million and Empowerment and training of youth on IT in Isoko federal constituency, Delta at N30 million.” For Omosede, there is “entrepreneurship development training/strategic empowerment programme in Ovia federal Consituency, Edo state- N100 million” while skills acquisition training and resettlement of 150 youths in Calabar South/Akpabayo/Bakassi federal constituency of Cross-River state at N125 million by Mr. Ekpeyong and Skills acquisition/ training and workshop at Bekwara, Obudu, Obanliku federal constituency, Cross River state at N50 million by Mr. Idagbo. Did all these projects make the desired impact? Have these empowerment schemes, trainings and skill acquisitions attracted by the federal lawmakers been beneficial for the constituents?

The jury is still out but clearly awareness is increasing on the parts of constituents especially with the 2019 elections close by; it will not be business as usual for lawmakers who fail to deliver.

 

Additional reporting by Damilola Adeniran

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