Reps Speaker Commissions Gbajabiamila’s UNILAG, NOUN Projects, Benson’s Women, Children Hospital
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, has commissioned the Surulere Study Centre of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) facilitated by the Chief of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.
Speaker Abbas also opened a 484-bed Femi Gbajabiamila Hall of Residence at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), equally facilitated by Gbajabiamila when he served as the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives.
Speaking at the separate events on Wednesday, the Speaker faulted the criticisms against the Zonal Intervention Projects popularly called constituency projects, saying they are successfully addressing the needs of Nigerians, especially at the grassroots.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Speaker Abbas opened an 80-bed hospital at Imota in Ikorodu, Lagos State, facilitated by the member representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency and the Chairman, House Committee on Defence, Hon. Babajimi Benson.
In implementing constituency projects, members of the National Assembly identify the needs of their constituents and nominate projects within a threshold in the annual budget of the Federal Government. The ministries, departments and agencies execute them as part of their capital projects.
The Speaker noted that legislative representation and constituency projects are two critical components of a functioning democracy, especially in a representative system of government like Nigeria’s presidential democracy.
“These specific initiatives are funded through the government budget and are intended to address the needs and improve the conditions of constituents, he stated.
Speaker Abbas also noted that for many Nigerians, especially at the grassroots, it is through constituency projects that they see the most direct and tangible manifestation of the government and democracy.
“However, there has been a widespread and endemic misunderstanding of the purpose and essence of these legislative interventions. Constituency projects are not mere items in a budget; they are the lifelines that connect the heart of our government to the heartbeat of communities,” he stated.
The Speaker explained that the projects offer a unique opportunity for legislators to address the specific needs and challenges of their constituents.
He said: “By tailoring projects to local contexts, we ensure that development is not just a concept discussed in the halls of the legislature but a reality experienced in the streets, villages, and towns across Nigeria.
“Furthermore, constituency projects best reflect participatory governance, given that local communities are involved in the decision-making process. This approach does not just build infrastructure; it builds trust, confidence, and a sense of ownership among the people.”
Saying he was personally encouraged by the many success stories that had emerged from constituency projects over the last two decades, Speaker Abbas noted that schools had opened doors to education, healthcare facilities had saved lives, and infrastructure had bridged literal and metaphorical gaps between communities.
The Speaker added: “These success stories are not just achievements; they inspire millions of Nigerians at the grassroots level and show that the government cares about them. With greater transparency and accountability, constituency projects can be the most viable tools for developing forgotten sections of Nigeria.
“I intend to re-introduce a reviewed version of the Constituency Development Fund Bill to provide a legal framework for the management, disbursement, utilisation and accountability of funds designated for constituency projects.
“I urge all legislators and members of the House of Representatives to emulate Hon. Gbajabiamila and renew their commitment to constituency projects. We must work with integrity and purpose to bring about meaningful change for our constituents. We should remember that the true measure of our success as legislators is not just in the laws we pass but in the lives we uplift directly.”
He lauded Gbajabiamila’s efforts in securing funding and support for several projects, including schools, hospitals, and countless infrastructure developments in his Surulere 1 Federal Constituency and beyond when he served as a member of the House.
He also noted that Nigeria must harness the potential of its youthful population, which he has described as innovative and creative.
The Speaker stressed the critical role of a knowledge-driven economy in the development of the country, and the indispensable role that the legislature could play in steering the transformative journey.
He noted that in an era marked by rapid technological advancement and globalisation, the transition to a knowledge-driven economy is not just beneficial but also imperative for sustained growth and competitiveness. “A knowledge-driven economy can better capitalise on intellectual capabilities rather than natural resources or physical inputs. It is an economy where knowledge is a key engine of growth, innovation, and job creation,” he said.
Speaker Abbas stressed that it was critical for Nigeria, where the people have relied on the exploitation of natural resources, especially oil and gas, for decades.
He stated: “However, the world is moving quickly from this energy source to cleaner and more sustainable sources. If we do not adapt and develop new ways of shoring up our economy, we fail to prepare for the future.
“As you are aware, the oil and gas sector currently contributes about 65% of government revenue and over 85% of total exports. As such, the global energy shift from fossil energy systems to renewable energy will adversely affect our Gross Domestic Products. This underscores the need for policies that drive investment in renewable energy, agriculture, solid minerals, and intellectual capital.
“In the face of our challenges, our youthful population is a vibrant source of innovation and creativity. We must harness this potential. This can only be done by pivoting towards policies that foster education, research, and development and encourage the application of knowledge in industrial, technological, and economic activities.”
He recalled how Gbajabiamila sponsored the Students’ Loan (Access to Higher Education), Bill, 2019, which has now become an Act of the Parliament after President Tinubu signed it into law.
He said: “I must express my deepest appreciation to Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the Chief of Staff to the President and, before then, my predecessor as the Speaker in the 9th House of Representatives and member representing Surulere 1 Federal Constituency for six (6) consecutive terms, having been elected to the House of Representatives in 2003.
“He remains one of the longest-serving lawmakers from the Southwest. His illustrious career in the legislature attests to his leadership qualities, amazing intellectual prowess, consistency and commitment to the Nigerian project.
“Gbajabiamila’s tireless efforts and unwavering dedication have been instrumental in attracting several projects, including this one, to his beloved constituency of Surulere. Through his advocacy and leadership, he has continuously demonstrated a profound understanding of the transformative power of education.
“The number of education-related projects executed in his twenty (20) years as a lawmaker gives credence to this assertion. Indeed, he was a pillar of wisdom, integrity, and dedication, as shown in his meteoric rise from a floor member to Minority Whip, to the Minority Leader, to the Majority Leader, and ultimately to Speaker. This is another unique record in the history of the Nigerian legislature.”
The Chief of Staff to the President, in his remarks, noted that his story started at the University of Lagos. “On this campus, I made friends who continue to play important roles in my life; I learned and acquired the education that allowed me to become a lawyer here at home and abroad. On this campus, I went from being a young man with ambitions to a young man with a plan. I remain very fond of and incredibly proud of this great institution,” he said.
Gbajabiamila stressed the need for a joint effort towards ensuring a conducive environment for learning and collaboration, “where students are safe to be themselves, are comfortable to think about big ideas and find solutions to the many complex challenges of our modern age.”
The ex-Speaker added: “I hope that years from now, some young student here will recount how they solved one global challenge or the other or recall the moment they came upon the big idea that inspired their success in business or academia, in science, politics or industry. And in their recounting, they will say it all began here in these halls. I look forward to that day indeed.”
At the commissioning of the hospital attracted by Hon. Babajimi Benson, the Speaker said it was a well-known fact that several significant challenges had confronted the health sector in Nigeria.
He added that the challenges were further exposed with devastating consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Lagos was the worst hit. He also noted that prominent among the issues confronting the sector was inadequate health infrastructure, saying, “Hospitals and clinics are often overwhelmed in urban centres like Lagos due to high demand.”