Constituency projects: Reps rise against ICPC, NFIU in plots to stop probe

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Some current and old members of the House of Representatives are kicking over ongoing probe of their handling of constituency projects by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.

The politicians fear that the findings of the two agencies in states already visited may cost them their reputation and militate against the continuity of constituency projects. They are plotting to force the hands of the agencies to discontinue the probes midway.

Sources familiar with the development said that but for the restraint being exercised by the leadership of the Green Chambers in dabbling into the matter, the anti-graft agencies, especially the ICPC, would have been stampeded into halting the ongoing probe of constituency projects in 12 states of the federation.

“The agencies are causing many Reps members sleepless nights. The ongoing probes are not something they are happy about and they are prepared to do everything possible to halt them.

“The ICPC is making frightening findings in the states its investigators have visited so far and old and new Reps members are complaining.

“Efforts have been made to get the leadership of the House to call the agency to order but the new Speaker and his principal officers are cautious in approaching the issue.

“This may actually be because majority of them have always been in the opposition before now and did not benefit much in sharing questionable projects by previous House leaderships.

“It is also being rumoured that the Speaker is unwilling to arm-twist the agencies just yet. Some of our colleagues have come here to tell us the agencies made discoveries that may put them in trouble if not promptly checked.

“And just few weeks back, the NFIU also announced that it is determined to beam its searchlight on past and future constituency projects as part of efforts to ensure financial intelligence and transparency.

“All these are not very convenient for the practice of constituency project as it has been carried out in our own system since 1999 or thereabout. Should the probe be concluded, heads will surely roll in the National Assembly. This is not something many lawmakers, old and new, are praying should happen. Even fresh lawmakers are joining the plot because they don’t want constituency projects to be stopped.”

Last June, ICPC began the first phase of investigation of alleged fraudulent procurement practices in the award of over N15bn contracts for constituency and other projects in 12 states of the six geo-political zones of the country.

The investigating panel is currently working in Lagos, Osun, Kogi, Benue, Adamawa, Bauchi, Sokoto, Kano, Imo, Enugu, Akwa Ibom and Edo States.

The team is expected to look into at least six controversial projects in each of the states, based on petitions and complaints already received by the commission.

Spokesperson of the commission, Rasheedat Okoduwa, said: “the ICPC is carrying out the exercise with support from the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, Budget Office of the Federation, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Premium Times, International Centre for Investigative Reporting, Public and Private Development Centre, Bureau of Public Procurement, Community for Peace and Corrupt-free Society and BudgIT. In Lagos, the ICPC investigating committee is probing the construction of a community recreation centre in Epe, which was awarded at the cost of N720m in 2016.”

It is looking into the building of some 21 schools in Lagos Island, Oke-Suna, Eti-Osa, Ajiran, and Lagos Mainland. The team is also expected to examine the award of some contracts for the construction of toilet facilities and the provision of motorised boreholes in some constituencies in the state at a cost of N213m.

In Osun State, the team will inspect the site where a community education centre was constructed in Ila Oragun at a cost of N350m. It will also look into empowerment programmes for women and youths on agriculture in some selected parts of the state, which was executed at the cost of N500m.

The agency also said its team will visit Adamawa, Kano, Edo and other states to investigate constituency projects worth N4bn.

It was further gathered that the agency may have mandated its investigators to beam their searchlight on ICT projects awarded to some constituencies in the 8th assembly.

“Many of these projects were either not done at all or shoddily done by the contractors in connivance with the legislators. We have identified some of these in Lagos, Imo, Bauchi, Kwara and Rivers states among other places,” one source claimed.

The NFIU’s resolve to probe some constituency projects, according to sources, may not be unconnected with the deluge of petitions it receives across the country concerning numerous abandoned projects littering hundreds of rural communities in all the geo-political zones of the country.

“It became difficult for us to close our eyes to the unintelligent manner in which most of these so called constituency projects were awarded and implemented. No doubt, it has become a national drain pipe and apart from helping to recover some funds, we want to see if we can help stop the practice out-rightly,” a source added.

The anti-graft agency, according to sources, recently launched an initiative with the primary objective of ensuring satisfactory execution of all constituency projects as well as ensuring value for the money spent on the constituency projects.

But sources at the National Assembly claimed federal lawmakers are unhappy with the searchlights being beamed on their activities by the organisations.

“They will soon move against the agencies. They have their plans. We all know what these projects stood for. The probes will not be allowed to go on,” another source said.

It was gathered that one of the plots currently being hatched is a revisit of the act establishing the NFIU. “They will distract the agency by announcing the need to look into some issues that led to its formation. The plot is already firmed up, what is left is for it to be brought into the open on the floor of the assembly.

“Don’t be surprise if a court case is instituted against the NFIU soon. The lawmakers are also planning to support the current war against the NFIU by the state governors. Soon, the leadership of the agencies will be too busy defending themselves than to continue with the probes,” our source added.

It was also gathered that plans have been concluded for some former Reps members and other stakeholders to take the ICPC and its investigating panel to court over their handling of the ongoing probes of some constituency projects across the country.

“Once these are done, the national assembly may promptly use the opportunity to halt the probes and save the necks of its members. That will also remove all forms of threats to the practice of constituency projects.”

*The Nation

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