BY EDMOND ODOK, ABUJA – As controversy rages over the proposed N37 billion renovation of the National Assembly (NASS) complex, the Nigerian Senate says the suit by some Civil Society organisations (CSOs) and Nigerians on the matter is totally misplaced.
According to the Senate spokesman, Godiya Akwashiki, the upper legislative Chamber was dismayed and taken aback by the action of the plaintiffs, led by Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP); BudgIT; and Enough is Enough (EiE).
Akwashiki told reporters that the suit filed against the National Assembly over the amount is wrongly targeted because the proposed renovation of NASS complex has nothing to do with the leadership of the National Assembly.
He explained that the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), owners of the imposing edifice should be the one to answer questions on the projects, stressing that the only role played by the NASS leadership was informing the President about the present state of the building.
“What is the outcry for? That they should not renovate the National Assembly or what? I have said this before that this issue has nothing to do with the National Assembly. It is all about the FCDA. The building belongs to the FCDA, which built it.
“The FCDA management knows how much it needed to fix the complex, which is in a dilapidated condition.
“I read it online that SERAP and some groups are threatening to take the National Assembly to court over the N37 billion earmarked for the renovation of the complex”, the Senate Spokesman said.
Defending the Red Chamber further, Akwashiki said; “I don’t know why they should take us to court, because the National Assembly complex belongs to the FCDA and its management is in charge of its renovation.
“The only responsibility of the leadership of the National Assembly is to inform the President about the condition of the building, which could collapse anytime if not immediately renovated.
“The President will then ask the owners of the complex to send their technical officers, the architects, structural engineers, to investigate the conditions of the building.”
He also exonerated the Senate from the costing processes saying; “How the team from the FCDA arrived at a cost of N37 billion is not the business of the National Assembly. It is purely the issue of the FCDA.
“It is the FCDA that will award the contracts. A single naira from the N37 billion will not come to the National Assembly’s account, everything is going straight to the FCDA.”
Akwashiki maintained that NASS could not have committed any ‘sin’ by just drawing the President’s attention to the complex deteriorating condition to avoid an impending disaster.
A group comprising about 600 Nigerians and three rights groups had approached a Federal High Court, Abuja, to stop President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, from releasing to the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) and the National Assembly the N37 billion earmarked to renovate the NASS Complex in the 2020 budget until a proper impact assessment of the proposed expenditure is undertaken by a competent and independent body.