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NASS has nothing to do with N37bn renovation fund – Senate Leader
By: Onyedi Ojiabor and Sanni Onogu, Abuja
The last may not have been heard about the controversial N37 billion allocation for the renovation of the National Assembly.
Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, who spoke on the contentious allocation, was categorical that the National Assembly has nothing to do with the humongous figure.
Abdullahi told our reporter in Abuja that anybody who has issues with the 37 billion vote should direct his questions to the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) in whose 2020 budget the allocation was made.
Apart from the FCDA, he said that those who wanted to learn more about the money should also take their query to the Presidency who saw the calculations of the FCDA engineers and voted the fund.
The Senate Leader, who is the first principal officer of the National Assembly to explain how the N37 billion renovation allocation came about, also gave details of how the fund is likely to be applied.
He said that structural engineers of the FCDA after conducting integrity test on the parliamentary complex, compiled the cost renovation and forwarded to the Presidency as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He noted that for more than 30 years, nobody has done anything to strengthen the structural viability of the National Assembly complex.
He said that the National Assembly did not vote the N37 billion and “the money is not in our budget.”
The management of the National Assembly also told the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan that the structure had not been maintained in the last 20 years.
Abdullahi noted that after hearing from the National Assembly management, Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, reported the bad state of the National Assembly complex to President Buhari for his intervention.
· Abdullahi said, “It is not even renovation, a lot of people don’t even understand what has happened. When we came in by God’s graces and by the grace of our party and our colleagues and they entrusted the leadership of the National Assembly into our hands, we looked into what is there in this assembly. And part of the responsibility of any leadership is to ensure that there is security within his domain and also that the entire structures that were inherited are secured.
“I challenge you to go downstairs where the wiring of the entire National Assembly is today. If you go there, you will see the tangled wires and everything. Sometimes when somebody tells you to come to the National Assembly you will run away.
“The structural integrity of a building is not determined by its cleanliness. When you come into that place, you will see that for more than 30 years nobody has done anything about its structural viability.
It is clean. Many people see it very clean and things are going on fine and they are saying ah! you don’t need N37 billion for renovation.
“We did not even vote that money. What we did is that we found out that the place is not secured. First the Senate President called the management and we sat with them in his office. And he asked them, what has happened to the maintenance of this building?
“They said that it has not been maintained for over 20 years. Go into the domes of the two chambers you will find that they have to do felting all the time otherwise the domes are going to collapse, including the main dome.
“Now, if per chance something happens, during our leadership, and the place collapses or catches fire and senators die or members of the House of Representatives die and some of our staff are dead, it would be absolute negligence on our part who have this responsibility.
“So who has the ultimate responsibility, the President. So the Senate President and the Speaker ran to the president and told him that “look sir, this structural integrity of this dome is poor and the chambers can collapse at anytime.
“During the time we were conducting our elections both in the House and in the Senate, what was happening in the House was filtering into the Senate and what was happening in the Senate was filtering into the House which led to much confusion and that was caused by electronic gadgets. Now the integrity of the structures themselves are bad.
Buhari’s N37bn largesse to National Assembly
“So we went and reported to the President. He said what is happening? Have you reported to the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) who are maintaining the building and what has happened?
“They said that the FCDA complained that the management of the National Assembly overtime took over the responsibility of doing the maintenance themselves. And apparently they were taking the money for the maintenance without doing the work.
“Before it was Julius Berger that was doing the maintenance, they removed it from them. I don’t want to blame anybody. So the President charged the FCDA to go and inspect the structure and give him a cost.
“It is not the National Assembly that voted N37 billion. If there is anybody who want to query the N37 billion let him go and ask the FCDA and their engineers why they are asking for N37 billion. It is not us. It is not even in our budget. It is the budget of the FCDA.
“Ask the Presidency because they must have seen the calculation. If they don’t agree, fight the President not the National Assembly so that you can come and bring your own engineers, let them come and look at the integrity of the building and the architecture and let them say that from our own engineers this is what it would cost to do the repairs.
“For us, we have carried out our responsibility by reporting the nature of this situation to the President. In his own wisdom, he invited the people who are responsible to do the assessment. They did the assessment and they gave it to him and he put the estimate inside the budget.
“Not only that, budget is not expenditure anyway. When you put an estimate in the budget, you may expend more or you may expend less.
So nobody knows what will happen. And then, look at the structure of every parliament in the world. This sitting arrangement that we have in both the Senate and House of Representatives, it is a structure that is so archaic.
“You cannot see that type of sitting arrangement in a parliament anywhere. They way we sit, how do you give Senators, even if you digitalize the place, how are you going to give them computers so that by the time they come, you have already put all items on the agenda in their system so that with the touch of a button, they can see all the bills and reports that we are going to consider.
“From there they can save them on their handsets and they can see the entire documents and records. They can also do whatever they need to do on their computer screens and equally ask their questions.
All they need to do is to touch a button and their screen will come up. So that is how parliaments work.
“That means the entire configuration of the two chambers has to be changed completely. You have to open up the entire thing, re-dome them, re-roof them and re-electrify the entire setup.
“This is the only National Assembly I know in the world, I am not a good traveller, but it is the only Assembly I know in the world where I can go out of my office and see a beggar or a cripple asking for alms.
“How did he come in here? I used to attend some seminars in the British Parliament, you have a card, the moment you come that card allows you to go to the place you are going only. You can’t enter any other place. From there you will come back and surrender it.
“Today even a meat seller will come in with his suitcase and be selling meat (suya) outside my office.
NASS has nothing to do with N37bn renovation fund – Senate Leader