A member of the House Representatives, Bamidele Salam, has opposed the plan to spend N37 billion for the renovation of the National Assembly. complex.
Mr Salam, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), represents Ede North/Ede South/Egbedore/Ejigbo Federal Constituency of Osun State.
The former journalist expressed his stance on his Facebook page on Sunday. He confirmed he authored the post in a message to PREMIUM TIMES.
“I am a member of the National Assembly but I sincerely do not think we need a 37 billion Naira renovation of that edifice. Apart from the Chambers of the NASS which need some upgrade in the audio and recording system, the entire structure needs no renovation more than our classrooms, hospitals and roads which are mostly in a decrepit condition.”
“As an advocate of an aggressive microcredit strategy for job creation, I would rather want to see 370,000 small businesses get 100k interest free loan within 12 months rather than have 1 edifice swallow that sum within the same period,” he said.
He also said he will advocate this on the floor of the House of Representatives when the House reconvenes in January.
“If we mop up all funds voted for renovations of the Presidential villa and other offices of political leaders and top civil servants, we will raise more than a quarter of a trillion Naira that can be injected into SMES in the coming year.
“I will, by God’s grace, be making this open advocacy on the floor of the House of Representatives when the House reconvenes in January. It is never too late to change a wrong policy,” Mr Salam emphasised.
According to the 2020 budget signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, the renovation of the National Assembly complex is set to gulp ₦37 billion.
The allocation was first mentioned by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, who said Mr Buhari approved the amount after lawmakers met with him to explain the poor condition of the legislative building in Abuja.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that while the government planned to spend the equivalent of $100 million on repairing just one building, many infrastructure, hospitals and schools across the country remain in terrible shape.
This has angered many Nigerians who stormed social media to question how much would be required to build a new National Assembly if mere repairs cost that much.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had earlier said the government owed contractors working on federal road projects up to N306 billion. He defended why the government should raise VAT and borrow more.
“If we had N1 trillion to spend on Nigerian roads we would be in a much better position. As of October, we were owing contractors N306 billion and more bills are coming in and all we got was N73billion,” he said.
Lawal Defends Appropriation
The Senate President, Mr Lawan, in defense of the allocation, told journalists that no major renovation had been done on the National Assembly property for 20 years and many parts of the property had become dilapidated.
“The phase one renovation will commence – the chambers and committee rooms in the white house. ₦37 billion was sourced and was given. It was put under the FCT, not national Assembly. All we require is to have the complex renovated,” Mr Lawan said.
“When we are through with phase 1, we will go to phase 2. It is not under the control of the National Assembly. The complex is a national asset and is for the FCDA to take care.”
PREMIUM TIMES in its earlier report revealed that while monies may not have been assigned specifically for the “renovation” of the building, the National Assembly has received multiple funding for improved infrastructure and equipment since 1999.
In 2013, the Federal Executive Council approved a contract of ₦40.2 billion for the “construction of Phase III, Part III of the National Assembly complex and the upgrading of the assembly’s two chambers.”
Additionally, in the proposed 2017 National Assembly budget, ₦1.25 billion was budgeted for the purchase of security equipment by the Senate. Apart from this, ₦440 million was allocated for the same purpose under capital expenditure for the National Assembly office.
Also, at the peak of the scandal between the eighth Assembly and erstwhile finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, PREMIUM TIMES found that ₦454 million was spent on office equipment, and another ₦109 million was paid to Navadee Integrated Nigeria Ltd for “ICT supply of equipment” at NASS.
Aside a sum of ₦250 million paid to DCN Nigeria Ltd for “general renovation of the main building”, this newspaper also found that the National Assembly spent ₦578 million on the refurbishing of meetings and committee rooms, PREMIUM TIMES investigation revealed.
In like manner, the House of Representatives paid H and H Inter-Biz Services ₦50 million for the renovation of its committee rooms. This is notwithstanding another “painting of committee rooms” project worth ₦46 million and awarded to Jagsul Nigeria Ltd.
The lower chamber also awarded ₦39 million for the replacement of public address system in its committee rooms to Dee Ex Associate Ltd.