Special Assistant on Projects to former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Engr. Jonathan Ivoke, has described as an organised smear campaign, the claim by Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, Lauretta Onochie, that funds for constituency projects were allocated to the Senator for the execution of constituency projects in Enugu West Senatorial District and that such projects were abandoned by him.
Ivoke said it was also an advertisement of her ignorance of the workings of government.
He said: “It is observed that while Tracka.ng tweeted that ‘N30 million was allocated for the 2018 budget for Abia-Orie Agu-Amokwe-Udi Erosion Control Project’, Lauretta mischievously misquoted the source as stating that ‘N30 million was allocated in the 2018 budget to Senator Ekweremadu for the completion of Abia-Orie Agu-Udi erosion control project’.
“For the records, nobody gave a kobo to Senator Ekweremadu or any other lawmaker for that matter for the execution of any projects.
“A cursory look at the signpost at this project as contained in her tweet, clearly lists Senator Ekweremadu as the proponent (nominator) of the project, while the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Environment, is boldly shown as the client, which procured the project and is responsible for its funding and supervision.
“Therefore, to say that a dime was allocated to any lawmaker is the height of irresponsibility, display of ignorance, mischief, malice, and in fact, an organised smear campaign taken too far”.
He charged development agencies and NGOs, which fund the various project tracking groups, to channel their resources to the provision of rural infrastructures like portable water and other concrete interventions if the project trackers were not ready to do thorough jobs.
“Whereas Constituency Projects are implemented on the basis of yearly scoping and piecemeal funding over several budgetary cycles, the so-called project trackers inappropriately tag projects as abandoned by lawmakers rather than directing their fact findings at the project-awarding and implementing MDAs to obtain concrete facts on the scope of work they awarded and the actual budgetary releases as against budgetary allocations.
“In the case of Abia-Orie Agu-Amokwe-Udi Erosion Control Project, a visit to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Environment, should have been enough to provide all such details so that Nigerians are properly informed.
“Importantly, Constituency Projects, just like other Federal Government projects across the country, can only move at the pace of funds released to the MDAs. It is noteworthy that some budgets elapse without any releases to the respective MDAs for some projects.
“It is unreasonable to expect the implementation of Constituency Project, including the ones in her Senatorial District and federal Constituency in Delta State, to perform at 100 per cent when the rest of the capital budget perennially perform far below average due to poor budgetary releases.
“Lauretta should tell the government, which she is part of, to release funds so that not only Constituency Projects, but also more critical FG projects can be implemented. She should ask questions about the Kano-Katsina Road, Minna-Suleja Road, Enugu-Onitsha Road, East-West Road, and a plethora of others, which have equally suffered delayed completion despite yearly budgetary allocations, not because they were abandoned or funds embezzled by the implementing Ministry, but due to lack of funds.
“As a presidential aide, the onus is on her to get her facts right and from the appropriate Executive authorities before going public or recycling them”, he added.
Ivoke, however, stressed that despite the systemic constraints, “Enugu West stands out as one of the best success stories in Constituency Projects and power of representation, hence the people have overwhelming elected Ekweremadu as their Senator five consecutive times”.