The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says it will prosecute recalcitrant legislators who have diverted funds meant for constituency projects.
Bolaji Owasanoye, the chairman of the commission, said this in an interview with Punch newspaper.
The commission recently declared that it would investigate the execution of constituency projects.
Commenting further on this in the interview, he said ICPC is not looking to witch-hunt any lawmaker but to ensure that projects meant to benefit the masses are executed, particularly if they have been funded.
He said: “A lot of people have misread the intention of this issue. What is our focus as a commission? We want to look at the kind of corruption that affects ordinary people. There has been a lot of focus on grand corruption and politically exposed persons. I am not saying they are not relevant. But what about corrupt practice that directly affects poor people for which there has been budgetary allocation and project intention?
“People in a community may not care about you pursuing a minister but what resonates with them is the fact that they need health centres, water or schools in their communities. The project is designed to help Nigeria meet sustainable development goals and help people feel the impact of governance. Many people have erroneously said the project is designed to target legislators. But we have legislators who said they are happy that we want to do the project because they were almost lynched in their constituencies when the people said they have collected money for constituency projects but did not do it.
“They (legislators) facilitate the placement of the projects in the budget but it is the executive that decides the contractors that handle them. Of course, there are situations where we have rumours that some legislators influence who gets the contracts, but such situation may be few and far at the end of the day. We have politicians who want to clear their names. I appreciate the legislators who said they are ready to work with us. We know that not all projects in the budget are eventually funded. This move will help us remove rumours surrounding project funding and execution.
“The steering committee we put together for this project has the civil society groups, media and the Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors who are professionals that can help us evaluate projects. The ICPC is not selecting the projects that will be investigated alone, that group will select projects. Because of cost, we are limited in finance but we will do it gradually. We expect that when we start our work, so many people will go back to site and complete their work. Those who have diverted funds will also channel them back. In some cases, which are egregious, we may have to enforce. At the end of the day, it is the ordinary people that will benefit.
“We will also look at Universal Basic Education Commission projects. UBEC has supported projects that have not been done and money has been put behind it. Already, we have signal; some legislators and other people have been coming to say that they have done their projects or that they have gone back to site. We hope that the recalcitrant ones will go back to site before we get to them. This is going to be a challenging assignment but we look forward to doing it. There are projects in 36 states of Nigeria and we have limitation in terms of personnel and capacity but we will do it gradually.”
The chairman also said the commission will only focus on projects under President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.