President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigerians, especially those at the grassroots are yet to benefit from the constituency projects by members of the National Assembly.
He noted that despite spending huge sums of money running into hundreds of billions of naira on such projects, the people were yet to feel the impact.
The President made the remarks in his speech at the national summit on ‘Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service’ which held on Tuesday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
“It is on record that in the past 10 years, N1trillion has been appropriated for constituency projects yet the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of ordinary Nigerians can hardly be seen,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his media adviser, Femi Adesina.
The President added, “The first phase report of tracking these projects by ICPC confirms our worst fears that people at the grassroots have not benefited in terms commensurate with the huge sums appropriated for constituency projects since inception.
“I am, therefore, delighted that through the effort of ICPC, some contractors are returning to the site to execute projects hitherto abandoned and that project sponsors are being held to account.”
President Buhari commended the new Board of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for major enforcement and preventive initiatives in this regard.
According to him, steps taken by the anti-graft agency include the System Study Review, tracking of zonal intervention projects (constituency projects), and collaboration with the National Social Investment Office.
“The ICPC has my full support and the support of this government to hold fully to account contractors, complicit public servants and project sponsors who divert funds meant for constituencies or other people-oriented welfare projects of our government or who by other means reduce the quality and value of such projects meant for our people,” the President assured.
On assets recovery, he reaffirmed that his administration would continue to support anti-corruption agencies to recover all ill-gotten wealth and prosecute offenders.
President Buhari insisted that all fully recovered physical assets would be sold and the proceeds remitted to the nation’s treasury.
Enforcement activities by anti-corruption agencies, according to him, have continued to reveal that some public officers possess properties and assets way beyond their legitimate sources of income.
He stated that asset recovery cases in court also revealed that some “criminally-minded” public officials were quick to disown such properties during investigations and in court.
“Recovered assets will continue to be deployed in the provision of needed infrastructure and social welfare programmes. The National Social Investment Programme is already utilising recovered funds to touch the lives of vulnerable Nigerians.
“I, therefore, commend the partnership between the ICPC and the National Social Investment Office to ensure that beneficiaries of government social intervention programmes are not short-changed along the line by unpatriotic officials,” the President said.
A Catalyst For Insecurity
He described corruption as the cause of many major problems facing Nigeria and reiterated his administration’s commitment to tackling it.
President Buhari believes corruption is a catalyst for poverty, insecurity, weak educational system, poor health facilities and services, among many other ills of the society.
He, however, gave assurance that his administration was working hard to overcome corruption which he said has inhibited the ability of the government to deliver infrastructure and basic services to the people.
“That is why I have reiterated on many occasions that corruption is an existential threat to Nigeria.
‘‘Corruption is furthermore, a major threat to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and the socio-economic transformation we are all working hard to bring about in Nigeria,” the President told the gathering at the summit.
A highpoint of the event was the presentation of integrity award to an Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashir Abubakar, and Mrs Josephine Ugwu of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), by the President.
Abubakar was awarded for rejecting $412,000 (N150 million) per container bribe offered to him by drug traffickers to import 40 containers laden with tramadol.
On the other hand, Ugwu is a former cleaner at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos who had on different occasions returned millions of naira found in the course of her duty, including the sum of $12 million forgotten in the toilet by an airport user.